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Facebook must be regulated, say NSPCC

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AN NSPCC investigation reveals that Facebook and the apps it owns were used in over half of online grooming cases after the introduction of a new offence, with Dyfed-Powys Police recording 19 cases in six months.

In the first nine months of a new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child, there were 1,628 crimes recorded in England and Wales, and police revealed what platform was used in 956 cases. Facebook was used in a third (32.6%) of cases, with Facebook owned apps Instagram and Whatsapp used in nearly a fifth (19.8%) of cases. The second most-used app was Snapchat with 176 cases.

In Wales, police forces recorded 149 crimes under the new grooming offence, with 46% of these using Facebook and Facebook-owned apps when the method was disclosed by police.

South Wales Police, which along with Dyfed-Powys Police only gave data for the first six months of the new offence instead of nine, saw the most recorded crimes with 74. North Wales Police was next with 35, followed by Gwent Police with 21 and Dyfed Powys Police with 19.

Matt Hancock, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has heralded the end of the ‘Wild West Web’, and the NSPCC has urged him to follow through by bringing in a regulator to force social networks to keep children safe.

At present DCMS has plans to introduce a voluntary code for social networks, which sites could choose to adhere to, or ignore, with social networks self regulating for the past ten years.

Figures from Freedom of Information requests to police forces across England and Wales show the number of cases where groomers used Facebook, and apps owned by Facebook. The youngest victim recorded was aged just two years old.

As part of its #WildWestWeb campaign the NSPCC has called for Mr Hancock to bring in an independent regulator for social networks with fining powers, a mandatory code which introduces safe accounts for children as well as mandatory transparency reports forcing social networks to disclose how many safety reports they get, and how they deal with those reports.

In May 2017 Welsh Education Secretary Kirsty Williams announced that the Welsh Government would create an online safety action plan for children and young people. NSPCC Wales is looking forward to its publication and calling on the Welsh Government to work jointly with the UK Government, to ensure children are better protected from harm online.

Des Mannion, head of NSPCC Cymru/Wales, said: “UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has a golden opportunity to put an end to the Wild West Web and force social networks to protect children online. Facebook has shown it is happy to use data for commercial purposes, but has failed to harness data in a way that can be used to prevent grooming.

“Facebook should be leading the way, but instead it has demonstrated time and again that self-regulation isn’t working and social networks can’t be left to mark their own homework. Mr Hancock could be the person who makes the internet a safer place, for every child now and in the future. We hope he seizes the chance to do that.”

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Local charity wins award

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AFTER winning the hearts of judges and residents, local Llanelli charity, Ail Gyfle Second Chance, has been named as a winner in the Jewson Building Better Communities competition.

Following thousands of regional entries being submitted from across Great Britain, the community rehabilitation and skills development centre has been awarded £4,000 worth of materials from the builders’ merchant.

Using their winnings, Ail Gyfle will expand its current facilities to make the charity accessible to people with disabilities, by levelling out the yard and installing disabled toilets.

This year’s Building Better Communities competition was launched in April 2018 and more than 2,400 entries – made up of good causes from up and down Great Britain – were submitted. These were later narrowed down to a shortlist and put to a public vote, with the winners announced at an awards ceremony held in Coventry on July 3.

At the event, Ail Gyfle and 36 other UK successful projects were presented with prizes by renowned architect and TV personality, George Clarke. After being awarded their prize, Sian Waters, CEO, Ail Gyfle Second Chance said: “This is perfect and will make a huge difference for us. We’ve had accessibility issues in the past, but we’ll use the materials to make our building more disabled friendly, which will open up so many doors when it comes to helping more people in the local community.”

George Clarke commented: “It’s community charities like Ail Gyfle which help bring people closer together and Jewson does great work in supporting them with Building Better Communities. This competition is a fantastic idea and it’s always great to see so many happy faces at the awards presentation.

“By giving something back to the areas that support them, Jewson is creating brighter futures for those who need it. I’d like to congratulate Ail Gyfle on their deserved win.”

Jewson Managing Director, Thierry Dufour, added: “At Jewson, we believe in the positive power of community spirit and it is local causes such as this one, which bring this to life. By lending a helping hand to those who need it, we can help build better communities across Britain and support those unsung heroes who go out of their way to help others.”

Building Better Communities is being supported by Jewson supplier brands: Velux; Marshalls, Polypipe; British Gypsum; Tarmac; Recticel and Norbord. To see the full list of winners, visit: www.buildingbettercommunities.co.uk

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Shark catch may be biggest ever in Welsh waters

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A LLANELLI fisherman had a day to remember on a recent angling trip – landing a massive 21 stone shark.

George Simmonds was on a charter trip fishing out of Dale, Pembrokeshire, when he hooked the enormous thresher shark – thought to be the biggest ever caught in Welsh waters

It took him two hours to land the shark, and three men were needed to lift it onto the boat, where its weight was calculated before it was released alive.

Only three thresher sharks are believed to have been caught in Wales, with the previous record set in 2015 by Mr Simmonds’ friend, David Thomas – also in waters off Milford Haven.

The pair were together on the latest fishing expedition on Wednesday morning when they saw a pair of thresher sharks leaping from the water, before Mr Simmonds’ reel started to spin. The shark ran off around 300m of line, and was finally landed after over two hours.

“It was pretty hard and when I saw it, let’s just say I said a few choice adjectives,” he said.

“I’ve been fishing since I was young enough to hold a fishing rod and I’ve travelled all over the world fishing – but this was a big moment, a personal achievement for me.

“It’s so rare and difficult to land a thresher shark as they are so large. In the shark world, it’s up there at the top of the list.”

Thresher sharks get their name from their long tail, which is often as long as their body. The sharks are active predators, and are commonly found along the North American and Asian continental shelves.

Meirion Williams, from Bridgend – who is known as Pie – organises regular shark fishing trips in the summer months off the Pembrokeshire coast and was with Mr Simmonds and others when they made the catch.

He said records showed it was only the third thresher shark caught off the coast and they believed it was a the largest and heaviest – but they are unable to claim an official record because they did not kill their catch.

“It was so big it got caught in the hatch door of the boat as we tried to get it on board,” he said.

“The body was 6ft 8in long and the tail was 6ft – it was the length of the boat.

“We put the shark back quickly and then it swam off really calmly.

“These sharks are very, very rare to see in Wales and so hard to catch.”

Andy Truelove, the skipper of the boat, added: “As with any shark there is a risk of being bitten and it does happen – never seen an incident myself and wouldn’t want to, teeth are like razor blades.

“With a thresher there is also a risk from the tail, it could do you a lot of damage. Fortunately this lady was well behaved.”

Research published this week showed that Pembrokeshire was one of the top five places in the country for spotting different species of shark, with more predicted to move into the waters around the coast as a result of rising sea temperatures over the next 30 years.

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Homeless man killed by drink and drugs

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A HOMELESS man who had spent the majority of his life with no fixed abode passed away after drinking heavily and taking morphine on the same night.

An inquest held at Llanelli Town Hall on Wednesday (Jul 18) heard that 50-year-old Colin Young was born in the Merthyr area and grew up in Aberdare.

He became estranged from his family, and aside from a brief spell working as a painter and decorator, he spent much of his time moving between the Valleys and Llanelli, living on the streets, which was partly the result of drug and alcohol issues.

Coroner’s Officer Hayley Rogers explained that on the evening of April 19, Mr Young visited a friend’s house and after consuming alcohol fell asleep on the sofa.

A short time later, in the early hours of April 20, he was found in an unresponsive state, and the emergency services were called. However, despite the efforts of paramedics, he was pronounced dead at 3:44am.

A post-mortem gave the cause of death as mixed drug and alcohol intoxication, and the death was treated by police from the outset as unexplained and non-suspicious.

Coroner Mark Layton quoted the toxicology report, which showed a high level of blood alcohol and the presence of a quantity of morphine. The latter, combined with alcohol, was sufficient to be fatal, he added.

In conclusion, the death of Mr Young was found to be related to the drugs and alcohol he consumed in the last hours of his life.

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