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Fire service’s High Court action against HM Coroner dismissed by judge

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THE TRAGIC events of 17th September 2019 have once more surfaced in the public domain following the dismissal of an application made by the Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service by the High Court.

Joshua Gardener, a promising young firefighter from the Service, met with a tragic end that day.

A training exercise on the River Cleddau, involving two boats operated by the Fire & Rescue Service, resulted in a collision that claimed Joshua’s life.

In the aftermath of the accident, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) undertook a detailed investigation. This culminated in a report, dated 4th November 2020, outlining various conclusions about the incident, many of which were very critical of the Fire & Rescue Service.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) explained that the fatal boating collision occurred due to ‘uncoordinated manoeuvres at speed within the same water area’. It was reported that neither of the boat helmsmen recognised the looming danger until it was too late.

Firefighter Josh Gardener suffered a fatal blow to the head from one of the boats involved. The MAIB emphasised that the tragedy could have been averted had there been someone in overall charge of the training exercise.

A significant observation made by the MAIB was that neither of the boat crews was maintaining an adequate lookout.

Chris Davies, Chief Fire Officer of Mid and West Wales Fire And Rescue Service, expressed deep condolences for the loss of Firefighter Gardener and acknowledged the findings of the MAIB report.

He added that, following their internal investigations, several of the report’s recommendations have been implemented by the service since the unfortunate incident of September 17, 2019.

Despite this, with an impending inquest into Joshua Gardener’s death by the HM Acting Senior Coroner for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, disagreements arose between the Fire & Rescue Service and MAIB regarding how the report and its findings should be presented and approached during the inquest.

The Coroner’s ruling of 28th October 2022 clarified that the findings of the MAIB report concerning the accident’s cause will serve as conclusive evidence in the inquest, meaning these findings would be indisputable. Interestingly, the Coroner’s Office was not present or represented in court as it chose not to actively participate in the proceedings.

Representing the MAIB’s interests were government lawyers, ensuring their stance was clearly presented and defended.

This dispute saw significant delays, with the inquest into Gardener’s death yet to commence even nearly four years post the tragic event. The delays, whilst procedural, have had a palpable impact on the grieving family of Joshua, leaving them in search of closure.

The Fire & Rescue Service subsequently sought a judicial review of the Coroner’s decision, based on seven grounds. This brought to light several pressing issues:

  1. Report Presentation in Inquest: A significant contention revolved around how the MAIB report should be presented before the jury. The Fire & Rescue Service challenged that fairness requires them to question criticisms in the report and to give evidence in response.
  2. Fresh Investigation Consideration: The Fire & Rescue Service claimed the Coroner misapplied the criteria to determine if a fresh investigation was necessary rather than relying on the MAIB report.
  3. Misunderstanding of Applicable Law: The Fire & Rescue Service alleges that the Coroner misunderstood regulatory standards, leading to a flawed perspective on the MAIB’s investigation and report.
  4. Engagement with Submissions: The Fire & Rescue Service believed the Coroner misunderstood its submissions and failed to engage with them adequately in the Ruling. This, they argued, resulted in an incomplete and potentially skewed analysis of their challenge.

Mr Justice Eyre, after a comprehensive review of the presented facts and arguments, dismissed the application brought forth by the Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service in July 2023. The judge’s decision was rooted in procedural rigour, clarity over jurisdictional matters, and understanding the scope and purpose of the inquest.

As Pembrokeshire watches on, this case serves as a sombre reminder of the tragic events of 2019, and the ongoing journey to justice and closure for the family of Joshua Gardener as they await the final inquest nearly four years later.

Josh’s funeral in Milford Haven

Farming

Pembrokeshire farming couple honoured at Downing Street reception

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MIKE and Joy Smith from Pembrokeshire were among the select few invited to a prestigious reception at 10 Downing Street, recognising their outstanding contribution to farming and food production. The couple, who are well-regarded pillars of the local farming community, were nominated by Stephen Crabb MP to attend the event which celebrated Food and Farming Champions across the nation.

Farming is more than just an occupation in rural communities like Pembrokeshire; it is a way of life that has sustained families for generations. The Smiths, who farm in partnership with their brothers at Parc Y Marl near Llysyfran and Pelcomb Farm near Haverfordwest respectively, embody the dedication and passion that characterise this vital industry.

Their commitment to fostering the next generation of farmers and ensuring the sustainability of the sector is well acknowledged. “It was a real pleasure to nominate my good friends and outstanding Pembrokeshire farming couple, Mike and Joy Smith, to attend a reception for Food and Farming Champions in 10 Downing Street today,” said Stephen Crabb, expressing his pride in the couple’s achievements and their significant role in feeding the nation.

Before the celebration at No. 10, the Smiths were treated to an exclusive tour of the Houses of Parliament. They had the unique opportunity to watch live debates from the viewing galleries, witnessing firsthand the legislative process in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

The recognition of Mike and Joy Smith serves as a reminder of the critical role farmers play in maintaining the supply of local produce and sustaining the agricultural heritage of regions like Pembrokeshire. Their story is a testament to the hard work, resilience, and community spirit that underpin the farming industry.

As the local community and indeed the nation continue to benefit from the dedication of farmers like Mike and Joy, the message is clear: without farmers, there is no food. The recognition at Downing Street not only honours their personal contributions but also shines a light on the broader significance of farming in ensuring food security and preserving rural ways of life.

Stephen Crabb MP, in acknowledging the contributions of the Smiths and the wider farming community, extended his gratitude: “Thank you to Mike, Joy, and all farmers in Pembrokeshire for your role in helping to keep local produce on our plates.” This sentiment resonates with the appreciation felt by those who understand the importance of farming to our daily lives and the fabric of rural communities across the UK.

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Farming

Thousands of farmers descend on Cardiff to say: ‘Enough is enough!’

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THOUSANDS of farmers and supporters converged outside the Senedd in Cardiff, Wales, to voice their strong opposition to the Welsh Government’s proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) and other contentious issues threatening the agricultural sector. The protest, marked by a sea of placards bearing the stark message “No Farmers, No Food,” highlighted the depth of the farming community’s fears for its future.

The demonstration, the latest in a month-long series of actions across Wales, saw farmers, many arriving on tractors, gather to contest plans they argue would compel them to sacrifice a significant portion of their land for environmental purposes. With estimates suggesting that the scheme could lead to 5,500 job losses, the stakes for the agricultural community and rural Wales are high.

Despite police estimates putting the crowd at around 3,000, below the anticipated 10,000 to 20,000, the turnout was a record for a protest of this nature outside the Welsh Parliament. The demonstration saw a mix of solemnity and spirited resistance, with the Welsh song ‘Yma O Hyd’ resonating amongst the crowd, symbolising steadfastness and resilience.

At the demonstration, notable figures lent their voices to the farmers’ cause. Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, was seen engaging with protesters, underscoring the political dimensions of the dispute.

Sam Kurtz MS, from Pembrokeshire, addressing the protest

Sam Kurtz, another Conservative MS, told the crowd that he was a farmer’s son. He told the gathering that he would fight tirelessly for the farming community.

Afterwards he told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “It was the proudest moment of my life addressing the farmers in Cardiff Bay today. Made prouder still that my father was there.

“The momentum is with the industry now and whomever becomes Wales’ next First Minister, and next Rural Affairs Minister, must work hard on the SFS, NVZs, and Bovine Tb, to repair a broken relationship between government and the agricultural sector.

“Can I thank all those who attended the protest for the respect and order that they showed.

“It was the largest of its kind and if the message hasn’t got through to the Welsh Government now, I’m not sure it ever will.”

Tractors lined the outskirts of Cardiff as the protest took place

Perhaps more movingly, Nigel Owens, renowned former international rugby referee and a farmer himself, addressed the crowd from the Senedd steps. Owens, comparing the protest’s significance to his experience refereeing the 2015 World Cup final, underscored the fundamental role of farming: “There can be no Six Nations game in Cardiff next Saturday against France if there is no referee. There can be no food on the table if there are no farmers.”

The protest was not just a platform for airing grievances but also a moment for collective expression of a deep-seated love for farming and the rural way of life. Ioan Humphreys, a fifth-generation farmer, poignantly articulated this sentiment, emphasizing the fight for the future of young farmers and the unity required to overcome current challenges. “I’m also here to make sure as farmers stick together and unite through this time of hardship,” Humphreys stated, capturing the protest’s spirit of solidarity.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, leader of Plaid Cymru, reiterated the essential bond between Wales and its agricultural heartland, advocating for government support at all levels to ensure the vitality of rural Wales. His call for action highlighted the broader implications of the proposed changes, touching on the sustainability of rural communities, biodiversity, and the Welsh economy at large.

The protest, while a manifestation of immediate concerns over the SFS, also brought to the fore ongoing frustrations with the Welsh Government’s anti-water pollution measures and the persistent challenge of TB in cattle. The demonstration’s peaceful nature, emphasized by South Wales Police’s statement, belied the deep undercurrents of anxiety and determination among the farming community.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s interaction with the rural community at the Welsh Conservative Party Conference in Llandudno, where he assured farmers of his support, underscores the national significance of the issues at stake. Meanwhile, the Welsh Government’s assurance of its willingness to listen and adapt the proposed scheme following consultation reflects the dynamic and contentious process of policy-making in areas critical to national interest and well-being.

As the protest unfolded, with wellington boots symbolically placed in front of speakers, the agricultural community’s message was clear: the future of farming, and by extension, the fabric of rural Wales, hangs in the balance. The collective call for support, understanding, and meaningful engagement from the government resonated beyond the steps of the Senedd, touching the hearts of many across Wales and beyond.

This convergence of farmers at the Senedd, while a significant moment, represents just one chapter in an ongoing dialogue between the agricultural community and policymakers. As Wales navigates the complexities of environmental conservation, economic sustainability, and rural livelihoods, the voices of those gathered in Cardiff Bay will undoubtedly continue to echo in the halls of power, reminding all of the indispensable value of farmers to the nation’s past, present, and future.

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Business

McDonald’s thanks Milford Haven after a busy first day

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MC DONALD’S new restaurant in Milford Haven, which opened its doors for the first time today, February 28th, at 11am, has already become a hit with the locals, thanks to an overwhelming turnout.

The opening day saw the restaurant bustling with patrons eager to check out the new location.

Reflecting on the day, the McDonald’s team extended a warm message of gratitude. A spokesperson said: “Wow, you came to see us in your droves today!

“We certainly tried our best to provide good service to you all. Inevitably at times, service was a bit slower than we would have liked, but we hope to see you all again soon.

“Thank you from team Milford.”

Despite the busy start and not offering breakfast on its first day—a detail proactively communicated to customers—the franchise’s focus remained steadfast on ensuring everyone had a positive experience.

The commitment of the new McDonald’s restaurant to the local community extends beyond its menu. In partnership with the police and Port Authority, the franchise is actively working to address anti-social behaviour and improve traffic management around the new site.

These collaborations aim to create a safe and enjoyable environment for both patrons and the broader community, reinforcing McDonald’s dedication to making a positive impact, the company said.

The opening of the restaurant has also brought significant employment opportunities to Milford Haven, with 90 new jobs created.

This boost increases the total number of individuals employed by Lonetree Limited, the local franchisee, to around 1,700 across its 17 McDonald’s outlets in South West Wales.

As McDonald’s encourages residents to follow their social media for updates, the overarching message is one of gratitude and excitement for the future.

A local councillor said: “The successful launch day sets a promising tone for the McDonald’s restaurant in Milford Haven as it embarks on its journey to be more than just a place to eat but a valued community partner.”

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