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A major injustice

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Lady Butler-Sloss: Judges decision should have set alarm bells ringing.

Lady Butler-Sloss: Judges decision should have set alarm bells ringing.

A COURT case involving parents of a severely disabled adult is still ongoing despite the Council’s conduct, and that of an expert witness it instructed, being the subject of fi erce criticism by the Ombudsman and the GMC. In order to preserve the identity of the disabled adult concerned and their parents, The Herald will adopt the Ombudsman’s approach to anonymity. In 2010, carers from Perthyn Care were assigned to assist in the care of H, the 18 years-old autistic daughter of Mr & Mrs G. Mr & Mrs G became concerned that despite being provided with £10 to buy lunch for H, the carers failed to provide receipts for the expenditure. Mrs G, in particular, became concerned that the money was being pocketed and decided to end the arrangement with the carers and told them that their services were no longer required. The same day as they were told their services were not required, the carers prevailed upon Mrs G to allow them to take H swimming.

She agreed. Mr & Mrs G did not see their daughter for six months. The carers reported that H, by means of a controversial communication method called ‘facilitated communication’ had made serious allegations of sexual abuse against her parents, including an allegation that Mr & Mrs G had prostituted her to men. Facilitated Communication is a system whereby it is claimed a disabled person, through the use of a letter board and simple vocabulary, is able to express themselves. They can do this themselves or with assistance. Signifi cantly, the allegations of abuse were made when H was ‘assisted’ by the carers who had been dismissed by Mr & Mrs G. H was removed to Ty Hendy by the local authority, a police investigation was launched, and the council planned – at a later stage – to foster H out of the County and beyond her parents’ reach. In order to buttress its position, the Council instructed Dr Rowan Wilson to pen a report determining H’s ability and – particularly – her mental capacity. Dr Wilson, through the use of what can be deduced to be facilitated communication assisted by a third party, possibly one of the carers who had transmitted the allegations, determined that H had a relatively sophisticated vocabulary and understanding and was mentally competent.

He concluded that H understood what it was claimed she had alleged against her parents. The specialist appointed by the Council to advise it was not expert in the use of facilitated communication and The Herald’s enquiries have revealed that he generally specialises in dementia care. Dr Wilson admitted to a GMC disciplinary meeting convened over his conduct in the matter that he had no experience of the use of facilitated communication either to gather evidence or to assess mental competence. Dr Wilson was found guilty of serious misconduct by the GMC. In mitigation, Dr Wilson’s lawyer told the GMC hearing that the doctor had acted in good faith but had been misled by a care worker, engaged by Carmarthenshire Council, acting on a ‘very signifi cant element of malice’. For the avoidance of doubt, that care worker was one of those dismissed by Mrs G in October 2010. The question of facilitated communication’s use should not, however, have arisen. In 2000, Lady Butler-Sloss, President of the High Court Family Division, had given a stern direction about facilitated communication, declaring that it was a dangerous, unverifi ed technique that should never be used again in any British court to support sexual abuse charges. Indeed, an expert witness at the GMC hearing into Dr Wilson’s conduct told that tribunal that one phone call (or a Google search for that matter) would have alerted Dr Wilson to the unreliability of Facilitated Communication. A 2001 paper that discussed Lady Butler-Sloss’ decision should have sent even more alarm bells ringing. Its author reported: “fathers are being falsely accused of sexually molesting a child because of information a child types with a hand held by a facilitator.”

The Council, even while it prepared to foster H permanently away from her parents, were made aware of Lady Butler-Sloss’ comments by Mr G. Despite being made aware of potential diffi culties in its ‘case’, County Council Social Services delayed instructing a second expert, Professor Patricia Howlin from November 2010 until January 2011. Professor Howlin’s report was as devastating as it was revealing. She concluded that H not only lacked capacity but cast extreme doubt on the way the facilitator, one of the care workers accused of misconduct by Mr & Mrs G, guided H’s answers. Professor Howlin tested H’s responses when guided and when not guided on the same basic questions. One of Prof Howlin’s conclusions is particularly troubling: ‘on tasks involving facilitated communication, H proved very capable of responding correctly to questions when she and the facilitator had access to the same stimuli. However, when the facilitator was not aware of what H was being asked not a single one of her responses was accurate or correct. This marked disparity between her ability to respond under different conditions cannot be explained by the fact that she was “not on top form”.’ If that is worrying, Prof Howlin’s conclusions on Dr Rowan Wilson’s report is shattering.

‘With respect to the report by Dr. Rowan Wilson it should be noted that this constantly makes statements such as “H stated”; “repeatedly stated”; “recalled my name”; “was able accurately to recall a conversation”; “spontaneously mentioned Ty Hendy in one of her answers”; “repeatedly used complex words”; “has excellent language skills”; “clearly stated”; “clearly understood”; “expressed a clear preference for”; “was able to resume communicating a train of thought”; “deliberated upon”; “showed ability to predict potential consequences”; etc., etc. In fact H “stated” nothing during that assessment. She did not speak at all and although this is barely mentioned, apart from a brief note on page 1, (one of the carers subject to a complaint by Mr & Mrs G) helped H communicate her answers”, it is not made at all clear that all H’s communications were made while supported by (the carer).

Although Dr. Wilson concludes that her communication was reliable’. Professor Howlin concluded that: ‘There is no evidence that H does communicate independently and hence it would be entirely inappropriate to accept any allegations of abuse based solely on statements made under facilitated communication. ‘Further, there is no indication that in any domain H is functioning above a fi ve year level, and in areas related to language, understanding and social relationships her ability is particularly poor. Thus, it is my view that she does not have the capacity to understand the repercussions of any allegations made.’ As far as the complaints of abuse went, that should have been the end of the matter. The fl awed premises upon which the Council had based its actions was systematically demolished by Professor Howlin. In the normal course of things, H should have been returned to her parents.

In fact, H did not return home until some three weeks after the Council received Prof Howlin’s report. Mr & Mrs G complained to the Ombudsman. While the Ombudsman was sympathetic to the complexities of the case and the difficult position in which Council staff found themselves, he described the Council’s conduct as perpetrating ‘a major injustice’. But that injustice was compounded by the Council’s knowledge on or by November 22, 2010, that the CPS had concluded there was no evidence upon which to base a prosecution. The Ombudsman went on to severely criticise the Council for claiming to accept the findings of a critical report prepared by Phil Tyrrell of the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru. The Ombudsman accused the Council of second-guessing the recommendations of a report it asserted to have accepted. The Herald understands that proceedings brought on behalf of H by a litigation friend, former County Councillor Marie Binney, alleging an unlawful deprivation of liberty, have been settled. Proceedings between Mr & Mrs G and H’s parents remains ongoing. Over four years after the Council returned H to her parents and over three years after a condemnatory Ombudsman’s report, the Council has still failed to reimburse Mr & Mrs G for its embarking upon a course of action which Mr & Mrs G say has ‘ruined their lives’ and caused them financial hardship.

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Life saving medical kit for police on the roads

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POLICE officers have been given equipment that improves the chance of survival for those injured in a serious crash, as part of Dyfed-Powys Police’s effort to reduce the number of people who die on the roads.

The medical kits are being given to roads policing officers, who are often the first at the scene of a serious crash. They are described as the best available to deal with the type of bleeding they encounter at road traffic collisions, and also in the case of knife and glass wounds, and are the same as those issued to ambulance crews.

Sergeant Owen Dillon, of Brecon Roads Policing Unit, worked with the Welsh Ambulance Service to trial the kit, which he has called ‘simple to use, but effective’.

He said: “We work really hard to reduce the number of collisions on the roads, but unfortunately they do still happen, and people can become seriously injured.”

“It only takes a few minutes for someone to bleed to death, so it’s vital that police officers – who are often first at scene – can deal quickly with any bleeding while waiting for paramedics.”

The equipment has been bought with funding of around £1,000 from the Police and Crime Commissioner. Traffic officers in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys will keep the equipment in their patrol cars.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn, added: “Keeping people safe is a top priority for me and this investment will equip officers with the best medical kit possible to deal with immediate life threatening injuries. I am committed to ensuring Dyfed-Powys plays an active role in keeping road users safe.”

Police officers are already trained to use tourniquets and bandages, and the Roads Policing Units who work as part of Op Darwen – the force’s campaign to reduce casualties on the roads – are being given the additional training they need to use this equipment.

Figures show that in 2018, 67 motorcyclists were either killed or seriously injured on roads in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, and men were eight times more likely to be affected than women.

The Welsh Ambulance Service is committed to working in partnership with other emergency services to save lives.

Carl Powell, Clinical Support Officer for the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “It is vital that Roads Policing Officers, who are often the first on scene and confronted with serious and life threatening injuries, are supported in preserving life with equipment that is effective in dealing with major bleeding.

“The trauma packs are a proven lifesaving asset and need minimal educational input to be used.”

As part of the Op Darwen, the force is urging motorcyclists to ride safely, and reminding drivers to be vigilant to motorbikes and other powered two-wheelers.

The campaign will run until October, when statistics say the roads are busiest. Roads Policing Units are working across the Dyfed-Powys Police area using a combination of education, engagement and enforcement, to reduce the number of casualties on the roads.

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Trimsaran: Male arrested on suspicion of terror offences

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OFFICERS from the Welsh Extremism Counter Terrorist Unit (WECTU) have arrested a 57-year-old-man at a property in Trimsaran on Tuesday, June 11.

Armed officers from WECTU, supported by officers from Dyfed Powys Police, attended the property to execute a search warrant.

After finding chemicals at the property, Police arrested the as-yet-unnamed man on suspicion of offences relating to being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

The man remains in police custody, while officers continue their investigations at the property, which remains cordoned off.

A spokeswoman for the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit said there was no risk to neighbouring properties.

She said: “Officers from the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (WECTU) supported by Dyfed Powys Police executed a search warrant at an address in the Trimsaran area on Tuesday, June 11.

“A specialist search continues after chemicals were found at the premises and a cordon remains in place. Armed officers were also deployed as a precaution to ensure the safety of officers and the public.

“A 57-year-old man was arrested as a result of the initial search on Tuesday. He remains in custody on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, under section 41 of the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2000.”

Counter-Terrorism Policing and UK intelligence services have foiled 19 attack plots since March 2017 and are currently running nearly 800 live investigations.

In a statement on the UK’s level of preparedness made on Friday, June 14, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, the UK’s Senior National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, said: “Counter-Terrorism Policing and UK intelligence services have foiled 19 attack plots since March 2017 and that we are currently running nearly 800 live investigations, it clearly shows that the UK is still facing an unprecedented level of threat from terrorism.”

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Bridgend Ford plant closing next year with loss of 1700 jobs

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FORD’S engine plant in Bridgend – which has been operational since 1977 – will close in September next year, with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

The site employs workers from across South Wales, with many more people employed by companies that supply both goods and services to the plant.

Trade union leaders were told the news on Thursday (Jun 6) morning at a meeting at Ford’s Essex headquarters. The company is believed to have pointed at Bridgend’s coast disadvantage in comparison with other sites. Plans are said to include redeployment of employees to other Ford sites.

GMB, the union for Ford workers in Bridgend, has reacted with shock to the announcement, with Regional Organiser Jeff Beck saying: “We’re hugely shocked by today’s announcement, it’s a real hammer blow for the Welsh economy and the community in Bridgend.
“Regardless of today’s announcement GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh Government to find a solution to the issue and mitigate the effects of this devastating news.
“What makes it worse is Donald Trump is in this country talking about a possible trade deal between the UK and the US – yet when the plant closes the new line is likely to be produced in

Mexico by an American company. So much for the special relationship Mr Trump.”

This comes after an investigation by GMB revealed Wales has lost 13,000 manufacturing jobs in just 10 years. The statistics were released ahead of GMB’s Annual Congress, which begins in Brighton on Sunday (Jun 9). They show 13,000 jobs in the sector disappeared between 2008 and 2018 – a fall of nearly 8%. In 2008, Wales supported 168,000 permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs. By 2018, that had slumped to just 155,000.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Business, Russell George AM, said: “After an extended difficult period of uncertainty for workers in Bridgend, today’s announcement was the last news we were hoping for.

Illustrative image of a Ford Logo, Cambridge,. (Photo by: Newscast/UIG via Getty Images)

“The Welsh Government must act swiftly now to support the workers of the area, and to reassure the world that Wales continues to be a place of automotive excellence.
“With the Bridgend site closing in late 2020 the next step is to attract new business opportunities to the area for these skilled workers.”
Suzy Davies, AM for South Wales West, said: “This is terrible news for the employees of Bridgend Ford and is a devastating blow for the whole area.
“It is crucial today that appropriate support is made available for affected employees during this difficult time. My thoughts are with the families involved, and I intend to extend my full support to those in need throughout the coming months.
“I implore the Welsh Government to do everything within its power to ensure retraining is available to these extremely skilled workers, and to help them find alternative employment with the utmost urgency.”

The plant’s closure come just months after Ford revealed that it would cut the site’s workforce by 370, in the first phase of almost 1,000 job losses, as the company looked to reorganise its European operations. The Bridgend plant makes engines for Jaguar Land Rover, but that contract will end this year, and investment in the new Dragon engine has been scaled back.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said: “This is devastating news for workers, their families and the wider community. The effects of this decision will be felt across the Welsh economy, but nowhere as acutely as in Bridgend.
“The Welsh and UK Governments must urgently do all they can to support employees, help them find new work and protect Bridgend’s economy. However, we must accept that nothing can stop this being a dark day for Bridgend and the Welsh car industry.
“Ford Bridgend has become yet another devastating casualty of Brexit. This year we’ve already seen Honda announce the closure of its Swindon plant and several car makers temporarily shutdown their factories. How much longer are we prepared to allow this to continue?
“This is yet more evidence we must give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit. Only by stopping Brexit can we save jobs and protect the Welsh economy.”

Assembly Member for Bridgend and former First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Ford intend to shut the engine plant by next September. No reason given as to why it should be Bridgend. The workers deserve so much better than this after all their efforts and hard work. They did all that was asked of them.”

Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, said: “Closure would be one of the most bitter blows for the Welsh economy for more than 30 years. Ford is jewel in the crown of the car industry – which is the hardcore of our manufacturing sector – the implications of this in terms of the supply chain and job losses is very grave.”

The future of the Bridgend site had been questioned for some time, dating back to the ‘One Ford’ plan which was introduced in 2008. From that point, Ford operated as one global company, with Ford UK and Ford Europe no longer designing different cars to the rest of the world. The same car models were then sold worldwide, and further investment went to plants that were the most efficient.

Bridgend was no longer just competing with plants in Cologne and Valencia, but with the rest of world.

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