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Vaughan Gething could lose no confidence vote due to sick colleagues

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First Minister Vaughan Gething is poised to face a critical vote of no confidence today, amid mounting controversy over his leadership and campaign funding. The Senedd vote, initiated by the Conservatives, comes after sustained criticism of Gething’s acceptance of donations from a company owned by an individual previously convicted of environmental offences. With significant internal party strife and key members absent, Gething is expected to lose the vote, which could significantly undermine his authority.

In a revealing interview with BBC Radio Wales Breakfast, Vikki Howells, chair of the Labour group of Members of the Senedd (MSs), disclosed that two Labour MSs are currently unwell and unable to attend the vote. This development places Gething’s leadership in jeopardy, as Labour’s narrow majority in the Senedd requires full attendance for a definitive win. The absent MSs are Hannah Blythyn and Lee Waters, both significant figures in Welsh Labour’s internal dynamics. Blythyn, recently sacked by Gething, and Waters, a former transport minister who has previously called for the contentious donations to be returned, are pivotal in this unfolding drama.

Their absences, compounded by the lack of proxy voting or remote participation options, have thrown Labour’s plans into disarray. Labour holds exactly half of the 60 seats in the Welsh Parliament, meaning every vote is crucial for maintaining Gething’s position. Without Blythyn and Waters, Labour is left vulnerable, especially as the Conservatives, along with Plaid Cymru and Welsh Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds, have refused to agree to a pairing arrangement to offset the absences.

The Conservatives’ motion could succeed if even one Labour MS rebels, abstains, or does not participate in the vote. This potential outcome has turned the vote into a high-stakes affair, with significant implications for Gething’s leadership. Vikki Howells criticised the vote as a “gimmick” by the Conservatives, aiming to distract from their own performance over the past 14 years in government. She emphasised that such votes should be decided by the public in a general election, not by parliamentary manoeuvres.

Plaid Cymru has accused Gething of showing contempt towards the Senedd. Their leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth, highlighted the internal conflict within Labour over this issue. “Are there Labour members who are wrestling with their conscience? Absolutely, we know there are,” he said, pointing to a fracturing within the party ranks.

Gething, who ascended to the position of First Minister just 77 days ago, has been under intense scrutiny following revelations that he received a £200,000 donation from Dauson Environmental Group during his leadership campaign. The company’s owner, David John Neal, has a history of environmental violations, further fuelling the controversy.

Throughout the leadership contest, Gething faced calls from within Labour to return any remaining funds from Dauson, a plea he has largely ignored. Additionally, Gething’s credibility has been questioned over his handling of a leaked message during the pandemic and the subsequent sacking of Blythyn, who has not spoken in the Senedd since.

The Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies, laid out the rationale behind the no-confidence motion, citing concerns about Gething’s judgement, transparency, and honesty. “One there’s a question of judgement, two there’s a question around transparency and three there’s an issue around honesty,” he stated on BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.

While today’s vote is technically non-binding and does not necessitate Gething’s immediate resignation, the political ramifications are significant. A loss would underscore a weakening grip on his party and diminish his authority, casting a shadow over his nascent leadership. This vote underscores the turbulent nature of Welsh politics, where internal party strife and external criticisms can converge to threaten even the most newly established leadership.

The origins of this controversy trace back to Gething’s Welsh Labour leadership election victory in March. His campaign was notably dominated by the £200,000 donation from Dauson Environmental Group. Public reaction from Labour politicians was largely muted during the campaign itself, but Gething has failed to prevent private anger from rising to the surface. There were calls from within Labour for the party not to take any remaining money from Dauson, as it normally would with leftover funds from campaign contests.

Adding to Gething’s woes, he found himself defending a controversial message he sent during the pandemic. As then-health minister, Gething informed colleagues he was deleting texts from a ministerial group chat, an action that has drawn criticism and raised questions about transparency and accountability. His subsequent sacking of Hannah Blythyn, which he attributed to her being the source of a leak, has not been backed by evidence, leading to further discontent and demands for clarity.

In a political environment where every move is scrutinised, Gething’s ability to unify his party and command respect in the Senedd has been called into question. The no-confidence vote, while non-binding, is seen as a litmus test for his leadership. Should Gething fail to rally his party members, the implications could be profound, potentially triggering a leadership crisis within Welsh Labour.

As the Senedd convenes to cast their votes, the political stakes could not be higher. The outcome of this vote will not only determine Vaughan Gething’s immediate political future but also shape the broader narrative of Welsh politics in the months to come.

Charity

RSPCA reveal 160 animal cruelty reports in Pembrokeshire

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THE LATEST figures from RSPCA Cymru reveal a troubling increase in animal cruelty cases, with 160 incidents reported in Pembrokeshire alone this year. This alarming statistic is part of a broader surge in cruelty reports across Wales, where 3,059 cases have been recorded from January to June 2024.

Pembrokeshire’s figures contribute to a national concern, as RSPCA Cymru braces for a busy summer following a 2% rise in cruelty reports across England and Wales. Last year, intentional harm and beatings of animals rose sharply during the summer months, and this year seems poised to follow the same distressing trend.

The cruelty figures in Pembrokeshire place it among the top counties in Wales for reported abuse. Rhondda Cynon Taf leads with 266 reports, followed by Cardiff with 255, Swansea with 237, Carmarthenshire with 189, and Caerphilly with 186.

Karen Colman, head of the RSPCA welfare oversight team, highlighted the concerning rise in cruelty reports: “Sadly, animal cruelty reports are on the rise this year – and across Wales, we’ve seen more than 3,000 animal cruelty reports already this year.”

One particularly disturbing case in Pembrokeshire involved a hedgehog found with an air gun injury in Haverfordwest. Ginny Batt, who runs the Pembrokeshire Hogspital, responded to a call about the injured animal. The hedgehog, wandering during the day, was found with a pellet wound near its neck and shoulder. Despite efforts to save it, the animal had to be euthanised due to the severity of its injuries.

Batt said, “The pellet missed his head and caught the shoulder. There was no bone injury, but the impact had dislocated his shoulder.”

In response to the rising cruelty cases, the RSPCA has launched its ‘No Animal Deserves Cruelty’ summer appeal. The charity is seeking public support to fund rescue operations and care for abused animals during the peak summer period.

“Summer is a really challenging time for us – and we’re braced for another busy season on the frontline, but we cannot do this alone,” added Colman.

The RSPCA is also advocating for tighter controls and better education regarding air guns. The organisation calls for mandatory basic safety training for anyone purchasing an air gun to prevent wildlife from being targeted.

Among the many animals rescued from cruelty, Loki’s story stands out. The puppy was found covered in bruises and fractures, but after being rescued and rehabilitated by the RSPCA, he now lives happily in a new home. RSPCA Inspector Zoe Ballard, who rescued Loki, recently reunited with the transformed dog, expressing her joy: “Seeing him today, there is a twinkle in his eye. So different from that little puppy I met that first day.”

As the RSPCA marks its 200th anniversary, it underscores the ongoing need for vigilance and support to combat animal cruelty. The charity’s summer appeal aims to raise the necessary funds to rescue and rehabilitate animals facing abuse.

For more information on the RSPCA’s No Animal Deserves Cruelty Appeal, visit the charity’s website.

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Crime

Woman gets payout after boss coughs in her face

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Kevin Davies, the father of British Lions and Wales rugby star Gareth Davies, has been ordered to pay more than £26,000 to a female employee for deliberately coughing in her face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A tribunal heard that Davies, 62, aimed to “ridicule and intimidate” the woman, who had expressed concerns over her health due to psoriatic arthritis and an autoimmune condition. The incident occurred in the days leading up to the first lockdown in March 2020 at Cawdor Cars, a business where Davies holds significant involvement.

The employment tribunal, presided over by Judge Tobias Vincent Ryan, heard that the woman had requested colleagues to maintain social distance, in line with official recommendations, due to her vulnerable health status. However, Davies mocked her concerns, intentionally coughing in her direction while commenting that she was “being ridiculous.”

The tribunal was informed that the woman, employed at Cawdor Cars between 2017 and 2020, was earning £11 per hour. In addition to car sales, Cawdor Cars has a property rental section where she worked as a property manager overseeing a portfolio including hotels and housing developments.

Judge Ryan condemned Davies’ actions as “gross behaviour,” noting that other members of the firm’s management team, who witnessed the incident, gave evidence that was perceived as defensive and not entirely straightforward. The woman vehemently complained about the incident and resigned from the business in Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion, less than three months later.

Judge Ryan stated, “She resigned at least in part because she was victimised; this was a major and significant factor in her decision. She felt that she was being eased out partly because of her complaints. She was correct.”

The tribunal awarded the woman £26,438.84 in total compensation. This includes £18,000 for injury to feelings, £3,841.94 for unfair dismissal, and £4,596.90 in accumulated interest. Cawdor Cars has been ordered to pay the bulk of the damages, with Davies personally liable for the remainder.

Following the hearing, the woman described the impact of Davies’ conduct on her mental health, stating, “I was left a nervous wreck. He knew of my medical condition and that I had no immune protection because of the medication I had to take, and he deliberately coughed in my face. I was shaking. I’m not a silly, fluffy person; I’ve had to put up with a lot in my life, but it really got me.”

This ruling highlights the seriousness with which the tribunal viewed the deliberate intimidation and ridicule of an employee during the pandemic, particularly one with known health vulnerabilities.

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Crime

Ex-mayor gets suspended sentence for child images offences

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A FORMER mayor of Pembroke Dock has been given a suspended jail sentence for the possession and distribution of indecent images of children.

Terry Judkins, 55, from Bush Street, was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court after he admitted the charges.

Judkins pleaded guilty to two offences involving Category C images and possessing a prohibited image of a child between September 2018 and August 2021.

He also admitted making and distributing Category A images of the children, Category A being the most serious classification of indecent images.

The court was informed that 11 unique images had been duplicated numerous times across two digital devices and that 10 of the images in question were of a 17-year old known to Judkins.

Judkin’s defence barrister, David Maunder, told told the court the majority of the imagery involving the 17-year old was “enthusiastically consensual”.

It is a criminal offence to share indecent images of a person under the age of 18.

The other image involved teenage boys aged between 10 and 13 years.

Mr Maunder told the judge that the court was “not dealing with evidence of someone who is a committed pedophile”, however, Judkins had “dipped his toe into this kind of behavior, which he deeply regrets now”.

He added that the Judkins was of “positive good character” and he had subsequently suffered “shame and embarrassment” as a result of the offences.

Judge Catherine Richards informed Judkins that the nature of his case stood in “contrast with the positive reputation you gained”.

She continued that there “was no evidence” that there was large amounts of material associated with young boys other than the the Category A images of the 10-13 year old boys that Judkins possessed.

Richards said Judkins had distributed two images of a 17-year-old and stated that the law was “in place to protect young people.”

Judkins was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, deciding to give a Judkins a suspended sentence for two years for distributing indecent images.

The former mayor was also given a further six-month sentence, suspended two years, for making indecent images.

Both of the the devices used by Judkins, a computer and a mobile phone are now subject to forfeiture and destruction orders.

Judkins will also be required to attend a programme for people with convictions for downloading indecent images of children and will have his name added to the sex offenders register for 10 years.

He will return to court at a later date to confirm whether he will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

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