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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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Ongoing success for Carmarthenshire sixth form students

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THE HIGH quality of support and guidance received by sixth form students across  Carmarthenshire’s schools continues to impact positively on the standards achieved at both AS and A Level.

The number of entries for AS and A Level examinations continues to increase, bucking the national trend and preparing students well for their future learning and career pathways.

The commitment and dedication shown by our students and their schools has resulted in nearly 78% of students achieving A*-C grades, reflecting an increase of 1.8% in comparison to results in 2017 and remaining comfortably above the Welsh national average of 73.8%.

Almost a quarter of the grades awarded, 24.8%, are A*- A, ensuring that our pupils are well placed when competing nationally for university placements, apprenticeships and career opportunities.

The improved outcomes are also reflected in the AS Level grades with 91.8% of entries being awarded an A-E grade. The increasingly effective learning opportunities on offer to our AS students have ensured a 4.6% increase in the A-E pass rate over the last three years.

The results have been warmly welcomed by Carmarthenshire County Council which has congratulated both students and schools, acknowledging the many inspiring opportunities that these encouraging grades will enable our young people to access.

Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board Member for Education, said: “Education in Wales is currently undergoing an exciting period of change and reform, reflecting the changing needs of our communities. The AS and A Level grades achieved by our pupils this year reflect, yet again, the successful partnership working between students, families, schools and the county council, equipping students with an aspirational range of learning opportunities. Students are very well prepared by our schools for the demands of the AS and A level examinations and they achieve highly as a result.”

“On behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council I wholeheartedly congratulate all of our students on the progress that they have made and on the grades that they have achieved. We wish you every success for the future.”

Director of Education and Children’s services, Gareth Morgans, added: “Our schools continue to prepare our students exceptionally well for the reformed AS and A Level qualifications that they have been working so hard towards over the last 2 years. The results achieved across Carmarthenshire this year once again reflect the dedication of our students, developing considerable resilience and a positive work ethic that will equip them well in their future studies and careers. I would like to sincerely congratulate them on all that they have achieved.”

“It is also pleasing to note the ongoing trend of 100% pass rates for both the Welsh first and second language courses, as well as in history, government and politics, English Language and literature and physical education, for example.

“The number of students achieving A*-A grades increased favourably this year, by 2.8%, reflecting the high expectations that we, and our schools, have of our young people.

“Warmest congratulations to all who have contributed so positively towards today’s success. Our students have many exciting decisions to make as they embrace their future journeys.”

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Adam Price AM to launch his leadership campaign

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PLAID CYMRU Assembly Member, Adam Price, will officially launch his campaign to be the new leader of Plaid Cymru today (Aug 17) in which he will outline his vision for Wales in 2030 with ‘seven steps to independence’ which, he will say, is a ‘clear and credible path to an independent Wales.

Mr Price will tell party members that the time ‘to talk in vague terms about independence as a long-term goal is over’.

Adam Price is expected to say: “The process of nation-building that will lead to independence has to start now without delay.

“Semi-policies and soundbites will not get us there.

“Welsh politics writ large can be seen as a battlefield between those with old ideas, new ideas and no ideas.

“Welsh independence is the biggest, most transformational, most radical idea of them all.

“Anyone who seeks to lead our party needs to set out a credible plan as to how we achieve it.”

In his ‘Seven Steps to Independence’ Adam Price will outline his plan which includes the election of a pro-independence government; passing a Wales 2030 Referendum Act; reducing Wales’ fiscal gap to 6% and increasing the Welsh economic growth rate by 1-1.5%.

Adam Price says the necessary legislation for an independence referendum will also provide for the holding of a referendum earlier than 2030 if the Welsh Government so chooses.

Speaking ahead of his launch in Carmarthen on Friday night, Assembly Member Adam Price said: “There is a growing number of people that are coming to the view that the only way in which we can face the challenges and grasp the opportunities of a changing world is to change Wales.

“And that change can only come through the most fundamental change of all:  to own our own future as a people and a nation.

“Independence is the reason I joined Plaid Cymru and the reason I have remained a member for 36 years.  I have always been consistent that we should make it our express purpose to achieve an independent Wales, and sooner not later.

“Independence can never be the safe or ‘middle of the road’ option.

“When we have tried to avoid saying anything that might frighten the voters we ended saying nothing at all.

“Over the coming weeks I hope to be able to convince party members that in electing me as the new leader of Plaid Cymru we will have a clear and credible path to an independent Wales.”

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Red Roses: MP asks drivers for crash stories to improve safety

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A LOCAL MP is asking drivers who have had crashes or near misses on the A477 junction to Red Roses to contact him following another smash on Saturday (Aug 11).

Philip Huw Davies posted on the Facebook group ‘Red Roses Village’ about a car which ploughed into him as he was waiting at the junction.

He says the driver of the other car mistook the section of road as a slip road in the rain.

Mr Davies said: “So our lovely junction to the A477 claimed my 4WD as its latest victim on Saturday when I was ploughed into by this car that mistook it for a slip road in the torrential rain.

“I’ve written to the Trunk Roads Authority asking if they’re waiting for a fatality before addressing the matter. I also went to see the MP yesterday and he’s going to speak to the Minister of Transport and the Assembly Member for transport.

“I’m also pretty tired of the abuse and aggression I get from drivers behind me when I’m slowing down enough on the main road, to take the junction safely.”

Mr Davies said he called an ambulance for the father of the other driver as he was bleeding from the nose. As a result he was transported to hospital by the Welsh Ambulance Service.

Now Simon Hart MP is asking for others who have had crashes or near misses to contact him with details.

Mr Hart said: “A lucky escape for the occupants of these two cars at the Pendine junction on the A477.

“There has been a lot of local concern about it yet Welsh Gov say they haven’t collated three years worth of evidence yet, despite that timescale elapsing nearly a year ago.

“So anybody else with experiences of this junction, let me know!”

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