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‘Devious, persistent and prolific sex offender’ jailed for 10 years

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A NATIONWIDE investigation into 120 potential victims of online grooming led by Dyfed-Powys Police has resulted in a 43-year-old man being jailed for 10 years.

Neil Antony Derrick Payne, of Bronwydd in Carmarthen, was described in court as a ‘devious, persistent and prolific sex offender’.

The court heard how he posed as a teenage boy on social media, and then tried to get his victims to meet his fictitious uncle in order to abuse them.

In some instances, he said his ‘uncle’ would be mad if the victims didn’t meet him.

Helen Randall, prosecuting, told the court that a 13-year-old girl was contacted by Payne, who was posting to be a 14-year-old boy, and send her lewd pictures.

She was then offered £200 to visit his ‘uncle’ for a sex act.

The girl went to the meet – with a friend – but faked a phone call from her father, saying he was a policeman, and took the £200 before running off.

Payne then threatened her and said he would report her to the police.

The court heard similar stories involving other girls aged 13 to 15, and analysis of his PC showed he spoke to ‘hundreds’ of young people.

He pleaded guilty to meeting a child after grooming with intention of sexual activity, causing or inciting children to engage in sexual activity, and possession of indecent images.

He was handed a 15 year sentence: a 10 year determinate sentence with a five year extension for causing or inciting a child to engage in a sexual activity.

He was also sentenced for 12 months, eight years and four years for the other charges, which will run concurrently.

Payne will also be subject to a serious harm prevention order for life, as well as sign on the sex offenders register for life.

HOW THE POLICE CAUGHT HIM

The force conducted an intense digital investigation into social media profiles set up by Payne, who acted as a teenage boy online with the sole aim of inciting young girls into sexual activity.

Payne was arrested after a teenage girl reported making contact with a man who had been purporting to be a 17-year-old boy on Facebook. Computers were seized from his home and were examined by the Digital Communications and Cyber Crime Unit (DCCU).

A forensic examination of devices seized from Payne revealed that he had set up 11 different profiles over Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, Oovoo, Snapchat and Kik. His pseudo profiles featured photographs of young males aged 15-17 years.

Payne would trawl the internet for contacts and target friends of friends. Using these fake accounts, he had been sending friend requests to girls across the UK for around 18 months. On Facebook alone, 172 people accepted his friend request.

Images, videos and text conversations were extracted, as well as information from social media profiles which were used to identify how many of the girls behind the 500 usernames were potential victims.

A DCCU analyst formatted 15,000 lines of text over each social media network into individual conversations between Payne and the girls he befriended. She quickly established a pattern, with his most frequent conversation opener used 119 times. He would say they had friends in common, or that he had recently moved to the area and wanted to meet people.

Detective Sergeant Mathew Davies, of the Police Online Investigation Team, said: “His intent was to send a mass message out to young girls using these regular lines. He was in contact with hundreds of people over his various accounts – starting off requesting random people as friends, and then working through their friend list to add others.

“Our analyst pulled out conversations with each girl, so even if he moved people to different platforms to chat we could still track what had been said between them. He had a pattern of conversation, and would try to move the girls onto Snapchat or Skype, saying his uncle was lonely and needed friends. He was then pretending to be this boy’s uncle on these accounts.”

An enormous task was undertaken by officers and members of the DCCU to identify from images, videos, text conversations and social media the potential victims of grooming and incitement. Evidence was collated by DS Sian Davies, who oversaw the entire investigation, and over 90 intelligence and safeguarding packages were put together. These were delivered across the UK with the assistance of other police forces.

Detective Inspector Jayne Butler, of Carmarthen CID, said: “In many cases we only had online usernames to go by in trying to find and contact the people we needed to speak to. There were a number of enquiries to try and identify where they lived, with forces across the country helping to make contact with them.”

As the investigation progressed, a report of incitement was made to Dyfed-Powys Police in October 2017, which was linked to Payne. Within two days, he was arrested. He was charged with a total of eight offences – meeting a girl aged under 16 following grooming, five counts of causing or inciting a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity, and two counts of possessing indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of a child.

In December 2017 Payne pleaded guilty to all eight offences at Swansea Crown Court. On Wednesday, January 31, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with a further five years on license.

DI Butler said: “We are pleased with the sentence handed to Payne for these predatory offences. He took on the guise of a teenage boy to specifically target young girls online, gaining their trust before attempting to groom them.

“A complex investigation which spanned numerous other forces has resulted in putting him behind bars, which I hope is some consolation to his victims. This sentence just goes to show that people cannot hide behind pseudonyms to commit what they believe are faceless crimes via social media.

“What is worrying is how willing some young people are to engage with strangers on the internet. I would really like to urge parents of teenagers – male or female – to be aware of who their children are talking to.

“It might be difficult, but please try to find a way to talk to them about the dangers that can be posed on social media.  Please urge them to stop and think if they receive a friend request from someone they don’t know – it might not be the person they say they are.

“We know from just this one investigation that teenagers are willing to accept friend requests from people they don’t know and have never met, which has the potential to put them at risk of harm.”

Dyfed-Powys Police would encourage any victims of sexual offences to have the confidence to come forward and report the offence. All reports are dealt with seriously and sensitively. Reports can be made by calling 101.

For more information on helping to keep your children safe online, visit www.ceop.police.uk or www.parentzone.org.uk

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Carmarthenshire counting the cost of Storm Callum recovery

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CARMARTHENSHIRE is beginning to count the cost of the clean-up that is needed to get the county back on track after Storm Callum.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were affected by the worst flooding seen in the area for over 30 years, and whilst a clear picture is yet to emerge about the true cost of the recovery, Carmarthenshire County Council said it will take millions to put right.

It is now calling on the Welsh Government to assist.

An initial assessment estimates that £3million will be needed to repair highway infrastructure alone, although all bridges and roads – other than the A484 at Cwmduad which was closed due to a landslide – have been re-opened.

The council set up an immediate flood recovery relief fund of £100,000 to support residents whose homes were damaged, offering a £200 advance to anyone in need, and offering practical help to people by collecting damaged furniture and household items, support to complete insurance claims, electrical safety testing, and in some cases temporary accommodation.

It is also working with Xcel Furniture in Carmarthen to appeal for donations of household items to help those affected get back on their feet.

Officers visited over 100 businesses in affected areas on Monday and is continuing to support them, including around 40 businesses who will be applying for grant support from an additional £200,000 fund established to assist businesses.

Leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “Over the last few days our teams have visited hundreds of people and businesses to let them know that help is at hand. We will do everything possible to help those affected get back on track.

“However the true cost of the recovery is set to run into millions. Our initial impact assessment of highway infrastructure alone estimates that there is around £3million of repairs needed.

“Whilst we have already made two hardship relief funds immediately available to homes and businesses, we are now seeking assistance from Welsh Government to ensure that appropriate resources are available.

“I will be pleased to meet the First Minister later today to put our request to him in person.”

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Help for businesses affected by flooding in Carmarthenshire

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CARMARTHENSHIRE Council is pulling out all the stops to help businesses affected by flooding over the weekend.

Eight teams from the council’s regeneration department have been out and about, visiting businesses across the county to offer advice and support, if needed.

Over 120 businesses were visited on Monday (October 15) in areas including Carmarthen town centre, Pensarn, Abergwili, Nantgaredig, Llanybydder, Lampeter, Pontweli and Newcastle Emlyn.

Other areas visited included Llanelli, Capel Dewi, Johnstown, Llandeilo, Llandovery, Garnant and Dryslwyn.

Council officers are now making contact with those businesses once again, following-up on their concerns and liaising with other council departments to address issues as soon as possible.

Over 40 Carmarthenshire businesses are already being helped.

A council funding pot to help businesses in the county affected by flooding is also being made available. Details and information on how businesses can apply will be confirmed in coming days.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Carmarthenshire Council Leader, said: “Council officers in many departments have been working around the clock alongside outside agencies and our partners in the emergency services to help residents and businesses affected by flooding over the weekend.

“Face-to-face contact with businesses means we’ve been able to quickly identify what we can do to best address all issues raised. This has already included signposting businesses to our environment team for contamination issues, tackling concerns related to the collection of waste, and arranging for skips and cages to be despatched to areas that have been badly affected by the flooding for the collection of ruined carpets, furniture and other waste.

“But despite the ongoing clean-up operation, Carmarthenshire is very much open for business, with county residents and businesses showing a huge amount of resilience in the face of adversity.

“I’d urge people to continue to support their local businesses while we help those worst affected get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Other council work has included highways, cleansing and refuse staff removing debris left by the flood waters. Inspections of all affected road surfaces, verges and bridges are also taking place.

Council housing officers are visiting homes across the county to help people with insurance claims, a hardship fund has been established for residents most in need of financial support, and rate relief for affected businesses is being sought from the Welsh Government.

A flood support form for residents and businesses is also now available on the homepage of Carmarthenshire Council’s website.

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Breaking bread proves costly

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A PEMBROKE man who thought it would be funny to destroy a pallet of bread has been given a conditional discharge.

Jack Boyle, aged 18, of Main Street, appeared before Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on Tuesday (Oct 16) to plead guilty to a charge of criminal damage.

Prosecuting, Mr Abul Hussain told the Court: “On August 4, the defendant was on a night out and thought it would be funny to damage a pallet of bread. This happened in the early hours of the morning and he came across the pallet outside the SPAR store in St Clears and thought it was a good idea to pick up the pallet and remove the bread and smash it.

“In his interview he said he thought it was funny to do that.”

Defending, Rebecca Carter said: “Yes he has said that but he is remorseful for his actions and the only reason he did this was because he was intoxicated. It is highly unlikely he will find himself in this position again.”

Before sentencing, Magistrates asked him ‘why did you take it out on a pallet of bread?’ to which he replied saying it was a ‘silly action’.

Boyle was given a conditional discharge for the offence and warned he would be punished for this offence if he was to commit another one in the next 12 months.

As well as that he will have to pay £50.78 in compensation, a £20 victim surcharge and £85 in court costs.

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