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Debt worry led to petrol station theft

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Haverfordwest court: Stuart Batley will not go to jail for theft

Haverfordwest court: Stuart Batley will not go to jail for theft

WHEN a member of staff at Bush Hill Service Station in Pembroke arrived to open the business at 6am on a Monday morning, he did not expect to find the door already unlocked, and the alarm system deactivated, a court heard this week (Nov 4).

That, according to the CPS, led the management of the premises to discover that £3102.21 was missing from the safe, and to the arrest hours later of staff member Stuart Daniel Batley.

Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court heard how a quick review of petrol station’s sixteen camera CCTV system, which had been unplugged, revealed that Batley had turned up at 4.55am; just over an hour before opening time. It became evident that Batley had switched off the cameras but did not manage to erase the part of the video where he entered the premises.

Prosecutor Ellie Morgan said: “There are nine members of staff working at the petrol station. Four have keys to the front door. The defendant is one of them. Owner Darren Briggs had explained to the police that he recognised that it was Batley on the CCTV. Police attended Batley’s home address at around 12pm on the same day, but he was not it. Fifteen minutes later he was seen by officers walking towards his house with his child in a pram. “

I’M NOT A THIEF

“Batley admitted to officers there and then that he had stolen the money and thrown it into a hedge. He reportedly said to police: ‘I’m not a thief so I don’t know why I did it. To be honest I was not thinking anything, I really wasn’t thinking anything at all.’

Ms Morgan continued: “ The police went to the location and recovered £1935.00 which was still in three money bags. The defendant was then arrested, strip searched and interviewed. Police were mindful that not all the cash had been recovered and asked for an explanation. During questioning Batley said that he had ‘just remembered’ that he had thrown a balaclava and gloves under a construction container in Clare Walk near his home. There police discovered another £650, but there was still a short fall of £517.21, so there will be a claim for compensation in that amount.”

DEBT WORRIES

Duty solicitor Matthew Raggett told the bench that Batley was in a large amount of debt with council tax, phone bills and loans. “His total indebtedness was between £60,000 and £70,000. He was now getting demands from bailiffs and was unable to sleep worrying that they would take everything” he said.

Mr Raggett added: “Normally Stuart Batley is a right-minded person. He is now at a loss as to his reasoning behind doing this. When he got a call from his wife, to say that the police were at the house, he asked his wife to wait upstairs. He was too ashamed to let his wife know what had happened. He is, your worships, of previously good character. Clearly this is a gross breach of trust. Loans which were taken out in his name by other family members have added to his debts.”

After retiring for a lengthy period of deliberation, the bench decided not to send the case to Crown Court, but asked for probation reports to be prepared before passing sentence.

KNEE JERK REACTION

Speaking after a brief adjournment, probation officer, Julie Norman said: “Batley’s father took out loans in his name, and this has only come to light in the last few years. It’s all got a bit too much for him – the theft was a knee jerk reaction. He now is expressing extreme remorse and is frightened that he will receive a custodial sentence. He has a wife and two children, and is now taking medication for his emotional well-being. I am going to recommend a supervision order today with a high level community order. Batley is also suffering from a medical condition – the discs are crumbling in his spine.

Magistrates deliberated and said: “We are not going to send you to prison on this occasion. You have shown remorse. You are of previous clean character. In the circumstances, we do realise that you have problems that you have to deal with.”

Batley was given a community order with twelve months supervision. He will have to undertake 80 hours of unpaid work. He was ordered to pay a victim charge of £60 and compensation of £517.21 to cover the missing money at £5 per week starting in a months’ time.

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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New trees planted to help town

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SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

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Golden goodbye report likely to be critical

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A REPORT by Audit Wales into the departure of former CEO Ian Westley is very likely to contain criticism of senior council officers.

In November 2020, Mr Westley left Pembrokeshire County Council with a £95,000 pay-out, something which has been criticised by a number of councillors.

In a document before the Audit and Governance Committee on Tuesday (April 13), it says that termination payments to Chief Officers are routinely examined by Audit Wales but in the case of Mr Westley, the audit team was unable to locate a recorded decision to enter into the settlement agreement which led to a termination payment being made to the Chief Executive.

An Audit Office spokesperson said: “This appeared unusual and therefore the audit team decided to undertake an early examination of the process that resulted in the payment being made.”

No complaints were raised, by councillors or any other body, with Audit Wales but the number of concerns and questions being raised at following council meetings prompted them to commence an audit.

Audit Wales state: “Our audit fieldwork is substantially complete. However due to the complex nature of some of the issues involved we considered it necessary to take some external legal
advice. We are currently considering that advice. 

“In the near future we will draft a document setting out our provisional findings and conclusions. 

“Once this document is ready we will commence a clearance process to confirm factual accuracy. 

“If the document contains criticism of identifiable individuals, in the first instance we will provide those individuals with any extracts of the document that pertain to them. Once
we have confirmed the factual accuracy with individuals, we will send the full draft document to the Council’s Chief Executive to identify any remaining factual inaccuracies. 

“We will only issue the finalised document once the clearance process has been completed. #

“We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process.”

Only a handful of senior officers were involved in the procedure surrounding Ian Westley’s departure.

The inference which can be safely drawn from Audit Wales’ report to the Audit Committee is that some of its content will be critical either of councillors, senior officers, or both.

The process of asking those named to respond is known as Maxwellisation, a legal practice that allows persons who are to be criticised in an official report to respond prior to publication.

The report highlights the exceptional nature of the case at Pembrokeshire County Council and demonstrates the sensitivity of the issues raised.

If senior officers are sharply criticised or found to have failed in their duty to their employer, they will almost certainly have to go.

The council’s interim Chief Executive will read the document after maxwellisation.

It is also likely that the council’s newly appointed Chief Executive, Will Bramble, will have a chance to see it.

The Audit Wales spokesperson added: “We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process. We are unable to respond to queries about our emerging findings whilst the audit is progressing, and until we have finalised our conclusions.”

In January, Cllr Jamie Adams had called for the council to commence an internal investigation into Mr Westley’s departure but that was deferred to allow for the Audit Wales review to be completed.

Cllr Adams said that the decision of payment should have been a ‘democratic decision’ and has asked why that wasn’t the case.

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