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



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


Calls for help over VHF radio may have been a hoax, say RNLI



THE ANGLE All-Weather Lifeboat was requested to launch on service at 10:23am this morning, Monday (July 22).

Following a call to the Coastguard from Milford Haven VTS, the crew were tasked after the VTS operators overheard a female voice calling for help on VHF channel 12.

After narrowing down the transmission to having been received on the Pembroke aerial site, the crew were requested to conduct a search.

Launching at 10:30am, the lifeboat made best speed to the moorings at Hazelbeach, and a hasty search was requested by the Coastguard of any moored vessels. The crew began making their way amongst the moorings, heading up to the moorings off Neyland. With nothing untoward sighted, the crew proceeded to search the moorings off Hobbs Point, Barnlake Point, Burton, Llanion and Rudders Boat Yard.

With nothing found, the Coastguard requested that the crew continue their search up river to Picton Point. The lifeboat continued searching up the western shore encompassing Llangwm before altering course just past Landshipping and searching the eastern shore back down the river, calling in to Lawrenny on the way to check any vessels moored there.

The RNLI said that the search continued back down as far as the Cleddau Bridge.

On Facebook the organisation posted :”Following a thorough visual, communications and radar search the crew were subsequently stood down when no further information or calls had been received.

“The tasking was therefore deemed to be a hoax call.

“The lifeboat was back alongside and readied for further service by 1pm.”

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Police investigating after man injured during altercation in cemetery



POLICE have confirmed that they are investigating a report of an altercation which occurred in the cemetery off Gelliswick Road, Hakin, Milford Haven sometime between 4.30 and 5.00pm, Wednesday 17th July, 2024.

Following the incident, a 32-year-old man went to hospital for treatment and was later released.

A 19-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of assault and released on bail pending further police enquiries police have confirmed.

The incident caught the attention of locals, who said there was a large police response to the incident included armed officers.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at:, by emailing [email protected], or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: 394 of the 17th

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting

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West Wales man jailed for rape after victim’s cries heard



A WEST WALES man has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison for raping a woman in an attack that ended only when her cries for help were heard by others. Charlie Evans, a 22-year-old former Exeter University student, ignored his victim’s repeated pleas for him to stop during the 45-minute ordeal.

The incident took place after Evans and his victim had attended a party, where both had been drinking. The court heard that after kissing, the pair left together, with the woman under the impression that Evans lived in a flat with her friend.

Upon returning to the flat, the woman used the toilet before Evans raped her, despite her repeatedly saying no. The prosecutor described the victim as crying hysterically and added: “She did not want these things to happen.”

During the attack, one student testified they could hear the victim not consenting and begging Evans to stop. Another person said they were so concerned they inquired about what was happening.

Police were alerted after the incident was reported to campus staff, who then contacted the emergency services. Evans was told to leave his flat and was subsequently removed from the university. He denied the offence during his police interview.

Evans, of Victoria Avenue, Mumbles, Swansea, was convicted earlier this year at Exeter Crown Court of rape and sexual assault. He was sentenced on July 12. In a victim statement, the woman said her life had been forever changed by Evans’s actions. She expressed feelings of fear, confusion, and shame during the incident and continues to suffer from nightmares. She now feels distrustful of men and has sought support to cope with her trauma, the court heard.

Christopher Quinlan KC, defending, presented multiple good character references for Evans, describing him as a “kind and respectful” young man who was “always positive, compassionate and thoughtful.” He argued that his client’s life was “in ruins” as a result of his actions.

However, Judge Stephen Climie told Evans he had “completely misrepresented” his victim’s position, adding: “She was so far away from wishing to engage in your sexual activity that the only explanation for your attitude and approach was alcohol that blinded you to what was clearly and obviously the word ‘No’.” He continued: “So far as your life is concerned you will be crushed as a result of the sentence I’m required to impose.”

Following the sentencing, DC Michele Hicks from Devon and Cornwall Police’s major crime investigation team praised the victim for her courage and resilience throughout the investigation. She said: “I hope this case reassures the community how seriously the police take reports of sexual violence against women and girls and gives people the courage to come forward in future.”

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