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Judge hammers police ‘dereliction of duty’

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Matthew Thomas: Freed to offend over and over again by Police

A PREDATORY sex offender was twice released on Police bail to offend again and again, even after making clear admissions of guilt to similar offences in interviews by Dyfed Powys Police officers.

Matthew Thomas, aged 21, moved from the north-east of England to Llanelli in an effort to dodge responsibility for offences relating to online grooming of vulnerable victims.

Cleveland Police, which was investigating Thomas for grooming a young girl with learning difficulties, contacted Dyfed Powys Police about him in December 2017.

Interviewed in Wales in January 2018, Thomas made clear and frank admissions about his conduct in grooming the vulnerable girl. When Police recovered data from his mobile phone, they recovered images of adults engaged in bestiality.

Thomas’ evil criminal method was consistent.

Prosecuting barrister Paul Hobson told the Court, that Thomas combined initial charm towards his victims with abuse. If his victims refused to comply with his perverted demands he would threaten to harm himself and tell his victims’ families what was going on.

After Dyfed Powys Police bailed Thomas, he stalked a further three young girls on social media using the same blend of threats and blackmail to get them to send indecent photos to him.

One of his victims was 13 years old.

Thomas sent the girl videos of him masturbating. He tried to persuade her to engage in a live video chat with him before threatening to rape her.

In August last year, Thomas was again arrested by Dyfed Powys Police after being caught in a sting by a paedophile hunter group.

Despite the admissions they already had from January and evidence relating to further offending, Police released him again.

He resumed offending almost immediately and in November 2018 was brought before Llanelli Magistrates Court and made the subject of an interim sexual harm order.

He continued offending.

He sent a photo of one of his victims to her own mother and encouraged another to self-harm.

When he was finally charged in January 2019, Police found he had groomed yet another 15-year-old victim and persuaded her to send him intimate photos which he threatened to distribute across social media.

The Court was told that, by the time he was charged, Thomas was the focus of eleven different Police investigations into the online grooming of vulnerable and under-age girls.

Thomas, of Nightingale Court, Llanelli, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, causing a child to watch a sexual act, possession and distribution of indecent images, and possession of extreme pornography.

Sentencing Thomas to a ten-year sentence, six in custody and a further four on an extended licence, HHJ Paul Thomas QC was savage in his criticism of the Police’s handling of the case.

HHJ Thomas said that the way in which the Police dealt with a persistent and dangerous offender was tantamount to ‘dereliction of duty’.

The Judge continued to demand a report from a senior officer of or above the rank of Assistant Chief Constable within three weeks to explain how Police had allowed Thomas to remain at liberty to offend.

Judge Thomas added: “It is disgraceful that this defendant was allowed to commit these offences which still under investigation.”

The Judge said Matthew Thomas’ behaviour towards the girls was “vicious and callous”.

Having concluded that Thomas posed a significant and continuing risk to the public, he passed an extended public protection sentence of ten years.

He ordered that Thomas register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life. The Judge also made Thomas the subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order to curtail his online access and protect young girls from his vile behaviour.

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Community

More investment on Carmarthenshire’s A484 is underway

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The final stage of recovery works to repair damage caused by Storm Callum on Carmarthenshire’s A484 is underway.

A highly complex programme of phased works has already been completed in one of the worst hit areas at Cwmduad, when a landslide tragically claimed the life of a young man.

Repairs as a result of the storm have also been carried out at Bronwydd.

Some 20 miles of the A484 was affected by the extreme weather conditions in Carmarthenshire in October 2018 stretching from Carmarthen to Cenarth.

Phase two of the support works have now started at other affected areas at Henallt Bends, Pante South, Llwyfan Cerrig Station, Foelfach, Tirgwili/Rock and Fountain, Mile End, Nantclawdd, the A484/A475 junction, Gelligatti before finishing at Flatwood in Cenarth.

Works will include felling damaged trees, providing foundations for new safety barriers, stabilising embankments and installing new highway drainage chambers.

Carmarthenshire Council secured funding from Welsh Government to carry out maintenance of the highway in response to detailed inspections following the storm.

Cllr Hazel Evans, Executive Board Member for Environment, said: “This has been a very complex operation covering over 20 miles and involving a number of agencies. Whilst the safety of the public is paramount, every effort will be made to ensure these essential works are carried out with as minimal disruption as possible until they have been completed. We understand that this has had a major impact on the local community and road users, and we would like to thank them for their patience and co-operation whilst these recovery and repair works are being carried out.”

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Education

Tesco donation puts school on fundraising path.

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Carmarthen children have held a charity ‘walkathon’ to mark the re-opening of a path around their school, made possible thanks to £4,000 from Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme.

The grant allowed Model Church in Wales School to carry out work on the path around the perimeter of the school field, which was previously off-limits to children as it was unsafe.

The school decided to mark the opening of the path with a charity walkathon in aid of the British Heart Foundation, during which the pupils raised an impressive £3,000.

The school was chosen for the top £4,000 award after Carmarthen shoppers used their blue tokens to support the school by voting for them in local Tesco stores.

Amanda Bowen-Price, Headteacher at Model Church in Wales School, said: “We are truly grateful for the funding from Tesco through the Bags of Help scheme and to everyone who took the time to vote. The funding has transformed a previously unsafe path to a fantastic resource for the whole school and the local community.

“We know that a high number of people don’t get their daily recommended steps in to keep fit and healthy, so we decided to put the new path to great use and hold a sponsored walkathon. Over 400 pupils from the school walked the equivalent of half a marathon between them, and I’m sure the £3,000 will be a great help for the British Heart Foundation.”

“The new path will be an asset not only to the school, but to the whole community,” she added. “We will be able to promote exercise and health and wellbeing activities through the use of this path.”

The Tesco Bags of Help grants, which are administered by the charity Groundwork, sees money awarded to thousands of local community projects every year.

Rhodri Evans, Tesco’s Communications Manager for Wales, said: “We are really proud of the impact Bags of Help has had in communities across Wales. Model Church in Wales School is just one of many schools across the nation which have benefitted from funding through the scheme, and we have awarded more than £5million to projects across Wales. We would encourage anyone with a project that could make a difference to their local community to find out about how Bags of Help could help them.”

To date, Bags of Help has provided more than £80million to more than 27,000 community projects across the UK.

Graham Duxbury, Groundwork’s National Chief Executive, said: “Bags of Help continues to enable local communities up and down Britain to improve their local spaces and the places that matter to them.

“The diversity of projects that are being funded shows that local communities have a passion to create something great in their area. We are pleased to be able to be a part of the journey and provide support and encouragement to help local communities thrive.”

Further information is available at www.tesco.com/bagsofhelp.

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Warnings issued as Storm Ciara predicted to hit west Wales

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NATURAL RESOURCES WALES (NRW) is urging people living near the Welsh coast to be prepared for possible flooding this weekend as Storm Ciara reaches the UK.

Current forecasts indicate that strong winds could cause a tidal surge and large waves hitting the coast.

Combined with heavy rainfall which is likely to see rivers rise quickly, NRW expects to issue flood alerts and possibly warnings across the country from Saturday afternoon through to Monday.

With the worst of the conditions expected on Sunday, NRW advises people to keep a safe distance from coastal paths, promenades, piers, and from river banks.

Emergency response workers from NRW are already making preparations ahead of the storm, checking defences are in good working order and making sure any drainage grids and screens are clear, to reduce the risk to people and their homes.

Richard Preece, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Our teams are keeping a close eye on forecasts and predicted river and sea levels this weekend, and if necessary, will issue flood warnings to registered properties in those areas at risk.

“We have already been speaking with our partners from the emergency services and the local authorities so they can put their plans into action.

“We are also warning people to avoid visiting the sea front due to the risk of being swept away by large waves or hit by wave and wind-blown debris.

“Flood water can also be extremely dangerous, and people should not attempt to walk or drive through it unless instructed by the emergency services.”

Network Rail and Transport for Wales have issued joint information ahead of Storm Ciara, which is expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain to the Wales and Borders route this weekend.

The Met Office has issued a yellow wind warning for the whole of the UK and two yellow rain warnings on Sunday.

Transport for Wales Operations Director Martyn Brennan and Amanda Newton, Senior Incident Officer at Network Rail said: “With Storm Ciara set to bring gale force winds of up to 90mph on Sunday, Transport for Wales and Network Rail wish to urge all customers to check their journeys prior to travel.

“We’re expecting very stormy conditions, high tides and winds that have the potential to uproot trees and damage infrastructure.

“The safety of our customers and colleagues is our absolute priority and as such there are likely to be a number of speed restrictions in place around our network, while some other lines may be forced to close entirely. We are working closely together to minimise any disruption and will do all we can to keep our customers moving and informed.”

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