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Editor found guilty but will appeal

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Thomas Sinclair: Editor of The Ceredigion Herald

THE EDITOR of the Ceredigion Herald was today (May 12) found guilty of breaching the Sexual Offences Amendment Act (1992) after a judge ruled that a story published last year ‘includes matters likely to lead members of the public to identify [the complainant] as the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed’.

Thomas Hutton Sinclair, 37, had pleaded not guilty to the offence, which was tried at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court last month.

A skeleton argument was put forward by his legal representative, Matthew Paul, which attempted to demonstrate that the information put forward in the article was not sufficient to lead to members of the public identifying the complainant.

However, after reserving judgement, District Judge David Parsons found that the relevant information provided in the article was sufficient to provide a ‘real risk’ of identification.

“The purpose of S1 (2) of the Act is to preserve the dignity and privacy of victims of sexual offences,” he said. “Without this provision victims may well not report crimes for fear of publication of their identity. In my judgement likely in this case includes probable or might well happen. However on the facts of this case I am satisfied that there was a real risk, a real danger, a real chance that members of the public would identify the victim.”

The judgement stated that the CPS did not contend that any identification of the complainant had taken place as a result of the article’s publication.

Speaking in mitigation, Mr Paul noted that in a similar case in 2013, Trinity Mirror had been fined £1,200. He added that The Herald was an independent paper, from which Sinclair did not draw a salary.

“It is regretted by Thomas Sinclair that it ‘slipped through the net’ but there was no considered decision to print,” he added.

Mr Paul noted that this offence pre-dated another matter which came before court last year, and that staff had received training before this matter came to court.

He also added that the ‘gleeful’ reporting of the Ceredigion Herald’s circulation figures as of last June by rival titles had adversely affected advertising revenue, pointing out that the current weekly sales were in the region of 3,300.

Sinclair was fined £1,500, and ordered to pay compensation of £1,500, costs of £500 and a surcharge of £150.

Speaking after the verdict, he said: “District Judge Parsons’ decision was badly wrong. The District Judge reached factual conclusions that were not reasonably available to him, and made errors of law.

“I maintain that there was no likelihood of the information in the report leading members of the public to identify the complainant. I will be appealing against both the conviction and sentence, and fully expect that the District Judge’s decision will be overturned by the higher Courts.”

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Social media used to groom children young as six

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CHILDREN as young as six in Wales have been targeted across an array of online platforms in the first year following the introduction of anti-grooming laws.

A law of Sexual Communication with a Child came into effect in England and Wales on April 3, 2017, after an NSPCC campaign, and in the first year a total of 3,171 crimes were recorded by police forces – amounting to nine grooming offences per day.

A total of 274 offences were recorded across the four Welsh police forces in the same period.

More than half of the offences in Wales were logged by South Wales Police (158) with 53 in North Wales and 44 in the Gwent force area.

Dyfed-Powys Police supplied data for the period between October 2017 and April 2018 when 19 offences were recorded.

In Wales, grooming offences were recorded on 23 different platforms, with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat comprising the top three most-commonly used with more than 120 taking place using those platforms alone.

Ninety-one crimes were reported in Wales against boys and girls aged between 12 and 15, while 56 offences were recorded against children aged 11 and under. The youngest victim recorded was just six years old.

Following the NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign, the UK Government’s digital secretary Matt Hancock announced that laws will be brought in to regulate social networks, to keep children safe and prevent harms such as grooming.

The charity is now campaigning to ensure those laws are sufficiently robust to prevent grooming and to truly keep children safe.

It is calling on Government Create mandatory safety rules that social networks are legally required to follow; Establish an independent regulator to enforce safety laws and fine non-compliant sites; Require social media sites to publish annual safety reports; Force platforms to develop technology to detect grooming using algorithms.

It comes ahead of the charity’s annual flagship conference How Safe Are Our Children? which begins on Wednesday June 20 in London and has the theme Growing Up Online.

Contact offences such as rape and sexual assault were among those recorded in connection with grooming offences.

Mared Parry, from North Wales, was sent sexual messages from men 10 years older than her on Facebook when she was aged just 14.

Mared, who has waived her right to anonymity, was groomed to send semi-naked pictures to them.

She said: “At the beginning it was messages like ‘Hey, how are you?’ But as the weeks went on, they started sending messages that were more and more sexual. It was so subtle; that’s why it is so easy for an online chat to slip into being so wrong.

“If I didn’t reply or speak the way they wanted me to, then they would say: ‘You’re just too immature for me’. They were so manipulative, but you don’t even notice it.

“Looking back at it now, it’s scary to think that I sent semi-naked pictures to older guys. It could have gone a lot further.”

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “These numbers are far higher than we had predicted, and every single sexual message from an adult to a child can have a huge impact for years to come.

“Social networks have been self-regulated for a decade and it’s absolutely clear that children have been harmed as a result.

“I urge digital secretary Matt Hancock to follow through on his promise and introduce safety rules backed up in law and enforced by an independent regulator with fining powers.

“Social networks must be forced to design extra protections for children into their platforms, including algorithms to detect grooming to prevent abuse from escalating.”

In Wales, NSPCC Cymru has called for the Welsh Government to co-ordinate and progress efforts to keep children as safe in their online worlds as they are offline.

Last year, Welsh Government announced plans to produce a children and young persons’ online safety action plan.

The NSPCC hopes it will deliver practical help and support for schools, parents and others in Wales involved in child protection online when it is published.

How Safe Are Our Children? takes place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, in Westminster, London on June 20-21.

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Llandovery Co-op in £1m makeover

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THE CO-OP in Llandovery is undergoing a near £1M eight week programme of works to transform the store to better serve the community.

The store has created five new jobs, now employing more than 30 full and part-time colleagues.

The High Street store – which is more than 10,000 sq.ft – remains open throughout the works, and will re-launch on Friday, July 6.

The new-look store will serve-up an enhanced offer of hot food, a Costa coffee dispenser, homeware, an entertainment section, and an enhanced in-store bakery, alongside its focus on fresh healthy foods, meal ideas, award-winning wines and essentials.

The store also brings a funding boost for local causes through its Membership scheme – Members receive a 5% reward on the purchase of own-brand products and services, with the Co-op donating a further 1% to local causes.
Causes currently benefiting including Cylch Meithrin Tre Ficer Llandovery; Glasallt Fawr Camphill Centre and, the Llandovery Youth and Community Centre.

Gethin Adams, Co-op Store Manager, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to carry out such a significant investment in Llandovery – we would like to thank our customers for their understanding during the works, it will look like a brand-new store. We are working hard to ensure the store is a real asset locally, with the improvements enabling us to better serve our community.”

Edd Howe, Co-op Regional Manager, said: “We are investing in our people, stores, products, prices and communities – our aim is for our store to be at the heart of local life, bringing communities together and offering great quality products, when and where our members and customers need them.

“We also want customers to know that they can become a co-owner and member of their Co-op. And, that we are also giving back to the community. Our members make a difference locally, simply by swiping their membership card when they shop with us they raise much needed funding for organisations in the area who contribute to improving local life.”

The Co-op – which won the title of Convenience Retailer of the Year at the latest Retail Industry Awards – this year unveiled a £50M price investment programme to cut the cost of everyday essentials including fruit, vegetables, bread, fresh meat and ready meals, as well as household brand names.

There will be offers and promotions in and around the new-look store to mark its re-launch.

Students and apprentices in Llandovery holding the NUS extra card receive a 10% discount off their groceries to support them during their studies.

Further information about the benefits of Co-op membership is available by popping in store or visiting: http://www.coop.co.uk/membership/

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Window smasher wanted prison return

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A CARMARTHEN man told police that he smashed a window belonging to a Llanelli business because he wanted to go back to prison.

25-year-old Josh Denton – who was jailed for Bitcoin fraud last year – pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal damage when he appeared before magistrates in Llanelli on Thursday (Jun 14).

The court heard that on February 6, Denton attended Llanelli Police Station at around 7.30pm and, speaking into the intercom, told an officer that he had ‘chucked a brick’ at the window of Lazer Zone, but left the police station before officers could speak to him further.

Lazer Zone provided photo evidence, and Denton was subsequently located and arrested.

During police interview Denton told officers that he was ‘flat out’ on drugs, and had thrown the brick in the hope that he could go back to jail to ‘get his head together’.

The damage to the window was estimated at £725, and the owner said that ‘nothing like this had ever happened before’, adding that there were children present at the time.

Denton’s solicitor Laura Sherwood said that he had accepted what he did during the police interview and gave a full explanation.

“He attended the police station immediately off his own back. The police officer took some time to come out after Mr Denton used the intercom and he had left by then,” she added.

Ms Sherwood added that Denton had previous convictions for theft and fraud, and was currently on licence. She noted that during a previous court appearance he had asked to be imprisoned because he was unwilling to work with the probation service.

Denton was given a 12 month conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £725 in compensation and costs totalling £105.

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