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Farmer’s suspended jail sentence for horse cruelty

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PalominoHorseA PEMBROKESHIRE farmer has narrowly avoided a custodial sentence after admitting cruelty to animals.
Gwilym Gilmour Thomas, 42, of Lodor Fach, Maenclochog, sat with his head bowed, as the three charges of causing unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 were read out.
Thomas pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to failing to adequately care for a Palomino Stallion, a Strawberry Roan mare and a Strawberry Roan horse.
There were emotional scenes in the court room as the defendant, from the dock, and his wife, from the public gallery, sobbed uncontrollably throughout the proceedings. His wife was comforted by a member of court staff.
Prosecutor Jon Tarrant told Haverfordwest Magistrates that this was the worst case of neglect of horses that the informing RSPCA officer, Mr. Abbott, had ever come across in all his years of experience.
Jon Tarrant told the court: “On April 11 the RSPCA visited a parcel of land in the vicinity of Rosebush, south of the Preseli’s. An officer photographed and videoed three horses, and a pony.”
“One animal had already died, while another was close to death, and the other two were severely malnourished; being 50-60% underweight” he added.
John Tarrant continued: “The first field the officer entered was extremely bare, and there appeared to be an area where a bail of hay had been put out previously. In that field the officer saw one horse which was struggling to lift its head and looking disorientated”
“He also found an empty bath tub which had barbed wire in the bottom of it, which had previously been used for water for the animals” he said.
John Tarrant continued: “On attempts to recover the surviving animals, one of those horses tried to evade capture – but it had to stop every so often as a result of its poor condition.”
“The fourth horse, found in another field, was estimated to have died 24 to 48 hours previously.
In a recorded interview with RSPCA officers, Thomas simply said: “I’ve failed them, I can’t forgive myself – I never realised they were struggling, I failed them.”
Defence solicitor Richard Griffiths asked “whose responsibility is it in the main to look after the horses?”
Mr Thomas’ father owns the field and the horses but generally asks his son to feed the animals.
In interview, Thomas senior said: “If I had any idea they were going down, I would have done something”.
Defending, Richard Griffiths, told the court: “My client has admitted his guilt. In interviews he was extremely sorry for what had happened to the horses.
“However, whilst admitting responsibility, you will notice from the bundle that there were two people interviewed under caution,” he said.
Mr Griffiths continued: “The defendant’s father also admitted he was at fault, but because of his age and ill health, it was decided not to be in the public interest to prosecute him.”
Mr Griffiths read out extracts of the interview between the RSPCA and the defendant’s father, Thomas senior. Mr Griffiths told the court: “It seems that the defendant’s duty was to bring food to the horses on an ‘as and when’ basis, on the instructions of his father.”
“His father suffered from chest pains and was unable to walk the length of the paddocks,” he added.
“A lady, who also had horses in the paddock, had been helping as well with the care of the animals,” he said.
“Once the lady had taken her horses away Thomas senior had forgotten to inform anyone including the defendant. This is the reason why the animals became malnourished,” Mr Griffiths explained.
“Despite viewing the animals daily, Thomas senior could only do so from a distance because he was unable to walk far. It seems that the majority of the responsibility rests with someone who is not before the court, and the defendant only played a minor role,” he said.
Mr Griffiths went on to say: “In fact, the defendant is in charge of a thousand livestock and has an excellent record.
“Last winter, one of the worst on record, he did not lose a single animal. This is testament to his attention and care of the animals he is fully responsible for.
‘’My client lives in a static caravan with his wife on the farm,” he said.
“He shares the facilities of the main house, but only receives £25 per week allowance from the business, despite working up to 17-hour days,” he told the court.
The clerk of the court told the magistrates: “This is an offence where you have to impose a custodial sentence. You have to follow your guidelines, you have no option
“However, it is within your powers to suspend the sentence,” he added.
Thomas was given a one year suspended jail sentence, ordered to undertake 300 hours of unpaid work and was disqualified from keeping horses for five years. He was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1102.60.
Speaking after the hearing Richard Abbot said “The decision to prosecute Gwilym Thomas was one which was made by a case management officer at RSPCA headquarters.”
“It is my view that he should not have been prosecuted without his father being before the court as well.”
“Animals have suffered over a long period of time. Usually in cases like this people deserve to go to prison.
I was however, worried in court that William Thomas would get a prison sentence as this is not what he deserves.”
Speaking to The Herald, John Tarrant said: “The RSPCA is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They would be criticised for prosecuting and they would have been criticised for not prosecuting this case.”

CAPTION: One of the surviving horses, two died. Some of the photos are too shocking to publish.

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Charity

Oxfam shop in faces closure over asbestos removal costs

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HAVERFORDWEST’S popular Oxfam shop, a feature on the high street since 1987, is threatened with closure due to the prohibitive costs of asbestos removal. The shop, known for its extensive range of quality donated items and as the largest second-hand bookshop in Pembrokeshire, may no longer be able to serve the local community.

Rosamund Aubrey, an Oxfam volunteer explained that the asbestos, found in the upper floors of the building, requires removal, estimated to cost over £60,000.

She added: “This expense, to be charged to the shop’s account within a single year, could render the operation unprofitable. Oxfam GB’s policy mandates each of its shops to generate a minimum profit of £25,000 annually, a target that the Haverfordwest shop, despite its success, will struggle to meet under these circumstances.”

It is well known in Haverfordwest that Derrick and Mark, the managers of the Haverfordwest shop, along with their dedicated team of volunteers, have been instrumental in creating an inviting atmosphere that extends beyond retail.

The shop offers valuable work experience and training opportunities, making it a vital community resource, especially for those on low incomes.

Rosamund Aubrey says that the decision to potentially close the shop has sparked criticism of Oxfam GB’s management, especially in light of comments made by Sarah Rees, Head of Oxfam Cymru, who has described Wales’ child poverty rate as a “national disgrace”.

Ms Aubrey said: “The juxtaposition of the charity’s mission to alleviate poverty and its willingness to close a shop that contributes significantly to this cause has raised questions about its priorities.”

Oxfam GB has been accused of neglecting a critical community asset in favour of financial metrics, without considering the broader impact of the shop’s closure on Haverfordwest and beyond. The shop not only raises funds for Oxfam’s global initiatives but also plays a key role in the local community by providing affordable goods, social networking opportunities, and support for those seeking to move into paid work.

As the deadline approaches for Derrick and Mark to submit a business plan demonstrating the shop’s viability, the community awaits a decision with bated breath. The potential closure of the Haverfordwest Oxfam shop underscores a critical debate on the balance between financial viability and social responsibility, challenging the charity to reassess its values and commitment to fighting poverty in Wales.

Oxfam GB has been contact by The Herald for a comment.

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News

More trouble for Vaughan Gething in Labour leadership race

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PRESSURE continues to build on Labour leadership contender Vaughan Gething as more revelations emerge about his campaign’s funding.

As The Herald reported on Friday, Mr Gething’s campaign got £200,000 of funding from a company linked to the Withyhedge landfill site.

In addition, Mr Gething received £3,000 in a non-cash donation from Cardiff-based Tramshed Tech.

While the £200,000 donation has raised eyebrows, the timing of the £3,000 donation from Tramshed Tech has done the same.

Mr Gething, Mark Drakeford’s Economy Minister, announced Welsh Government funding for Tramshed Tech to host their Soft Landing Programme.

No wrongdoing by either Tramshed Tech or Mr Gething is suggested. However, a cynic might regard the donation as an example of how the Welsh Government’s plans to create a circular economy will work in practice.

Spending limit is £44k

The unusual feature of Mr Gething’s funding is just how much there is.

Each candidate’s leadership campaign has a spending limit of £44,000. That sum is based on the number of Labour members in Wales multiplied by £2.50.

Mr Gething’s leadership campaign has received over £290,000 in donations.

The £44,000 cap covers leafleting and campaign costs, including social media advertisements.

Unprecedented donations

Mr Gething’s well-funded campaign will not break the rules provided his campaign’s expenditure remains at £44,000 or less. The question arises about the purposes for which all the other money will be put.

The £200,000 from the Dauson group of companies has caused anger among Mr Gething’s Senedd colleagues.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, commented on Twitter: “I’m sorry, but £200k on an internal election in a cost of living crisis is completely unjustifiable.

“I don’t want this to become a negative campaign, but I am genuinely shocked and angry by this. It’s wrong.”

Mr Waters supports Mr Gething’s rival, Jeremy Miles – along with well over half of Labour MSs.

Mr Gething’s lack of support among those who work with him closest is striking.

Equally striking is the number of unions who have hustled in behind the Penarth MSs campaign.

While Labour has around 20,000 actual party members, the Trade Union bloc vote controls 100,000 possible votes. The largest unions have not bothered balloting their members before coming out to support Mr Gething.

Where hustings took place, the Unite union seemed likely to back Jeremy Miles. However, an intervention from that union’s “regional secretary” fortuitously unearthed a rule that meant Mr Miles could not get the union’s backing after Mr Gething – equally fortuitously – joined Unite shortly before Mark Drakeford announced his retirement.

Speaking to Wales Online’s Will Hayward, the Director of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, Professor Richard Wyn Jones, said: “The sum involved is eye-wateringly large.
“There’s simply no precedent for it in the context of Welsh devolved politics.
“Indeed, I can’t think of a Welsh politicians who’s been able to access such large sums since the days of David Lloyd George – which isn’t a comparison that I can imagine anyone being comfortable with.”

Writing for Nation Cymru, the doyen of Welsh political journalists -Martin Shipton – reported a Labour councillor as saying: “This is so bad that in my view Vaughan Gething is not fit to be a Member of the Senedd, let alone First Minister. The only honourable thing for him to do is to withdraw from the contest, but he won’t do that.

“If he wins the election, I will not be able to accept him as the leader of Welsh Labour, and I think many others in the party may take the same view.”

For comparison, when Mark Drakeford defeated Vaughan Gething in the race to replace former First Minister Carwyn Jones, he got £25,000 in campaign donations. Jeremy Miles’s declared level of donations is £32,000.

As bad as the current situation looks, the final level of each candidate’s donations is yet to be declared – and things could get far more embarrassing for Mr Gething and the Labour Party before they get better.

The worst-case scenario is that the result of a tainted campaign overshadows the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay and places a politically damaged First Minister in place during a General Election year.

The consequences of a negatively perceived Labour leader in Wales cannot be underestimated during a UK election.

The Conservatives are knocking lumps off the Labour Government on the NHS, transport, and rural policy.

Mr Gething’s fundraising efforts could give the Conservatives another target and Plaid Cymru a pretext for dumping the Cooperation Agreement.

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Health

Extra funding to upgrade NHS Wales digital services and equipment

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THE NHS will benefit from £10m in additional capital funding to upgrade scanning equipment and digital infrastructure.

The funding package includes:

  • £5m for digital services to modernise elements of the IT infrastructure and support the provision of modernised and efficient patient care.
  • £1m to upgrade MRI scanners.
  • £1.3m for ultrasound scanning equipment.

The extra funding is being made available today as the Welsh Government publishes its second supplementary budget – an annual, end-of-year budget, which formalises changes made during 2023-24.

This year, the second supplementary budget includes changes the Finance Minister announced in October 2023 to provide additional support to the NHS and Transport for Wales.

The Welsh Government provided additional in-year support of £425m to the NHS and £125m to Transport for Wales to help meet increased cost pressures and, in the case of health boards, rising demand.

The second supplementary budget also details some of the additional funding made available to Wales as a result of decisions made by the UK Government to increase spending in devolved areas.

But notification of the additional consequential funding has come too late to be spent in this financial year. The additional revenue and capital funding will be put into the Wales Reserve for use in 2024-25 and 2025-26.

As the figures were published, Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government said:

“The UK Government confirmed the final sums last week, leaving us only one week to allocate additional funds.
“I’m pleased that we have been able to direct much-needed funding to maintain the fabric of our NHS.

“But at a time when public sector budgets have been squeezed so tightly, this is another example of why we need greater borrowing powers to be able to respond quickly to emerging needs.

“Unlike the UK Government, we cannot borrow to fund day-to-day spending so we are dependent on Barnett consequentials which often come late in the year and with little or no notice.

“As it is, we have been forced to plan based on best guesses about what we will receive from the UK Treasury – this is simply not acceptable.”

Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services added:

“This additional capital funding, together with the in-year revenue funding is welcome.

“But the NHS is facing the toughest financial pressures in recent history due to inflation and increased demand in both planned and emergency care. Health boards have had to make some very difficult decisions despite the additional injection of funding over and above their allocated budgets.”

The supplementary budget is due to be debated on Tuesday 12 March, after the Welsh Government’s Final Budget 2024-25 on Tuesday 27 February

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