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‘This is not enough!’ Aberaid petitions Council

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Aberaid members: Lucy Hancock and Lindsey Gaunt

Aberaid members: Lucy Hancock and Lindsey Gaunt

WHEN CEREDIGION county council announced that it would accept ten more refugees this year, the network Aberaid felt that the county could do more and launched a new petition. The petition states: ‘This is not enough!’ 

Ceredigion is a county of only 76,000 people occupying 1,790 square kilometres, and Aberaid argue that we have the resources and room to accommodate more than ten people per year when the refugee crisis is so huge and acute.

Aberaid record that more than 11 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria, and at least half of these are children. 6.6 million people are internally displaced. Five million people are refugees seeking safety and shelter in other countries. Millions of people living in the refugee camps across the Middle East are living in complete squalor with very little food, clothing, warm bedding or access to education. Between two and three million Syrian children are currently not attending any form of school. There are 2.7 million refugees in Turkey, 1.8 million in Lebanon, 800,000 in Jordan, 250,000 in Iraq and 120,000 in Egypt.

Record numbers of people claimed asylum last year in Europe, with more than a million refugees arriving in 2015, around half of them from Syria. Germany received almost 600,000 refugees in 2015, with more arriving every day. Hungary has accepted 178,000 refugees. Greece is sheltering at least 65,000, with thousands more arriving on its islands’ beaches each week. More than 3,770 people drowned last year in the Mediterranean trying to find safety. Wales has pledged to take 1,500 Syrian refugees in the next few years but, as yet, only a handful have actually arrived. Aberaid contest that Ceredigion has the capacity to take at least 50 refugees each year until 2020.

Aberaid’s Julie Makin told the Herald: “A recent Channel 4 News feature showed how the whole community has pulled together to welcome the 11 refugees who arrived in Ceredigion late last year. Our Council was really proactive in their response to the crisis, and led the way in Wales. Although most mainstream media seems to have moved on, the refugee crisis continues. Aberaid is willing to help in any way we can to facilitate the arrival of the next group of Syrians seeking sanctuary here in West Wales.”

INSIDE ABERAID 

Aberaid began with a Facebook conversation between local mothers of young children who watched in horror as the refugee crisis unfolded last year, feeling helpless. So, the women took action, helping to collect clothing for refugees in Calais camps through Rum Aid, which was set up by Huw ‘Rummers’ Roberts.

Aberaid then organised the ‘Solidarity with Refugees’ rally on the promenade. Mark Williams MP, Elin Jones AM and Ceredigion Council leader Ellen ap Gwynn all spoke at that rally. An Aberaid petition called on Ceredigion Council to accept some refugees and public support led to the Counsel setting up a Task Force and becoming a ‘trailblazer’ local authority.

When the refugees arrived in Ceredigion, Aberaid liaised with the Council and Care Society to collect donations of household goods to equip their accommodation. Since then, Aberaid supported ‘Shoes for Little Syrians’, collecting children’s shoes via drop off points in local schools to go to camps in the Middle East. A fundraiser at the Morlan Centre for Faith and Culture in December 2015 raised £2,000, which went to charities specifically helping refugees on Greek Islands.

In March, Aberaid raised a further £600 to go to charities working in refugee camps in France. Clothing and bedding was delivered to camps in Calais via Aberaid and the student group Aber2Calais, who filmed their trip.

Last Friday (Jul 8), Aberaid drove some donations up to a group called Pobl i Bobl near Bangor. Pobl I Bobl have a container going out to refugee camps in Lebanon in the next few days. Pobl i Bobl are also receiving donations from Share in Mold.

DYFI CONVOY TO CALAIS 

This month, a group of 20 volunteers from Machynlleth and the convoy. The convoy will take the Aberaid donations that Johnny Gaunt and Ian Bell were unable to deliver when French authorities turned them away last month (Ceredigion Herald, June 24). In addition to delivering essential supplies such as dried foods and bedding, volunteers will stay on to ‘offer their compassionate presence and time, volunteering in the camp’. As well as helping out practically, they want to listen to people’s stories, helping to make them feel heard and not forgotten.

A successful fundraising ‘Ceilidh for Calais’ on Saturday (Jul 9) in the Plas, Machynlleth, welcomed over 150 people and raised an invaluable £665.

Convoy organiser Rosie Strickland, who has visited the Calais camp before to deliver bicycles, told the Herald: “Community support for this cause is huge and a broad range of people came to offer what they could, whether that be just their time, food, clothes or the odd pound popped in the donation tin.”

The Ceilidh also featured the sale of homemade food, cakes, bread and snacks, a rummage sale, glitter painting, and writing postcards and messages for refugees. Very popular was an auction of donated items, including original artworks, kitchenware, and beautifully renovated musical instruments.

Rosie Strickland said: “The crucial work of ordinary people, in the face of such widespread ignorance by the state and the continuing propagandising of racism, xenophobia and islamophobia in the mainstream media, is absolutely fundamental, not only in easing the physical situation of the people in crisis, but also in improving emotional and mental well-being.”

APPEAL FOR ACCOMMODATION

On June 13, Aberaid launched an appeal to help the Council find accommodation for its Syrian Resettlement Programme. So far, the Council have been unable to find suitable and affordable accommodation.

Aberaid state that: “It is important to note that the Council are not displacing any local people in need of affordable housing in order to do this.”

The appeal is aimed directly at landlords in the private sector, where many vacant properties may be suitable. The Council are looking for property in Aberystwyth and Lampeter or within a five mile radius, provided there is an adequate bus service. Rent will be paid at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) level.

In Ceredigion, a one bedroom household is eligible for £386.92 per month and a four bedroom household is eligible for £598.34 per month. A single person under thirty-five years is eligible for £270.83 per month. Suitable properties should be available for a minimum of 12 months.

Aberaid member, Lindsey Gaunt, said: “Aberaid offered to help the council as their housing department was not successful in finding any private accommodation suitable for the Syrian Resettlement Programme. Aberaid spent time researching and speaking to housing agents and landlords and provided a list of 12 houses or flats in Aberystwyth and three in Lampeter that would be suitable and were around the right rental rates. We are aware that there is some flexibility with regard to rates if landlords know that the contracts will be fixed for multiple years. We are waiting with great excitement to hear which of these homes are going to be chosen and very much hope that Lampeter will join Aberystwyth as a host communities for Syrian refugees.”

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Police: New scientific evidence shows that David Morris was correctly convicted

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SOUTH WALES POLICE say that an independent investigative assessment into the Clydach murders in 1999 have shown that there is a scientific link between David Morris and a sock, widely accepted as being used by the offender during the killings.

David Morris was found guilty of murdering an entire family of four including two young girls.

But potential new witnesses, along with the views of experts, had given campaigners calling for his release fresh hope.

However Morris, 59, died in prison in August.

He spent 22 years in jail for killing Mandy Power, 34, her daughters Katie, 10, and Emily, aged eight, and her 80-year-old mother Doris Dawson.

A bid to again take his case to the Court of Appeal was rejected in 2018 by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In July the Crown Prosecution Service said no information had been provided by the potential new witnesses to undermine the conviction.

The review, which was being overseen by Devon and Cornwall Police, was then expected to move on to look at forensic issues also challenged in a recent BBC television documentary about the killings.

Police say that the scientific examination of the sock has identified the presence of a mixed *Y-STR profile using technology which would not have been available to the original investigation team over 20 years ago.

While the presence of a link to Morris (or a male relative of his paternal lineage) and the mixed Y-STR profile has been identified, the science cannot determine how or when this profile was transferred onto the exhibit, but the conclusion of scientists is that it is “more likely” that Morris contributed to the DNA profile found on two different areas of the blood-stained sock than if he did not contribute DNA to them.

Following the tragic events in Kelvin Road, Clydach in June 1999, South Wales Police carried out an extensive investigation into the murders and the scale of the investigation was the largest and most complex ever undertaken by a Welsh police force.

In 2002, David Morris was convicted of the murders by a unanimous verdict at Swansea Crown Court. His conviction was overturned on appeal due to a conflict of interest by a defence solicitor. A retrial was held at Newport Crown Court in 2006 and Morris was convicted again. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The matter has been considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission as recently as 2018. Following a thorough review of the case material they decided not to refer it to the Court of Appeal as no new evidence had been identified.

In November 2020, legal representatives of Morris contacted South Wales Police requesting the release of various exhibits from the investigation.

This request was the subject of careful consideration and the force decided on a course of action which involved the appointment of an independent senior investigating officer and an independent forensic laboratory to oversee a forensic review of the case material.

This work – carried out under the banner of Operation Dolomite – has been led by experienced detectives Steve Carey and Ian Ringrose, supported by police forensic expert David Lloyd, all of whom are from Devon & Cornwall Police. An independent forensic science laboratory, Cellmark Forensic Services, was commissioned to carry out forensic work.

Following the death of David Morris on 20th August 2021, permission was given by his family to obtain a blood sample to allow forensic examinations to take place.

Assistant Chief Constable David Thorne, of South Wales Police, said: “The decision to carry out an investigative assessment did not constitute a reopening or reinvestigation of the murders, nor did it demonstrate any lack of confidence in the conviction of Morris and the subsequent case reviews. Morris was convicted unanimously by a jury on the strength of the prosecution case and independent reviews by the Criminal Cases Review Commission have never identified any evidence which would determine the conviction to be unsafe.

“However, the advancement of forensic technology has provided the opportunity for evidence-based answers to some of the questions which have been raised about forensic issues in this case, along with other matters raised by the BBC Wales documentary ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’. The appointment of Steve Carey and his team has ensured the review has been conducted with a layer of independence.”

The outcome of the investigative assessment has been communicated to the victims’ families, the family and legal representatives of Morris and others affected by this case.

Mr Carey said: “My team has carefully examined the issues raised and subject to the terms of reference for Operation Dolomite.

“In the opinion of the forensic scientist regarding these results – which were obtained from samples extracted from two separate areas of the sock at the time of the original forensic examination – it is more likely that David Morris (or a close paternal-line male relative of his) contributed DNA to them than if he did not.

“In relation to one sample, the lead forensic scientist has stated to me that in his opinion the low-level and incomplete mixed Y-STR result is as would be expected if Morris had contributed DNA to it. For another person to have contributed to it, the components must match by chance.

“The scientist would have a very low expectation of selecting a male individual at random from the Western European population having components in their Y-STR profile being represented to the same extent as those in the Y-STR profile of Morris.

“To test this, an evaluative tool developed by Cellmark Forensic Services showed that from a dataset of 9,357 Western European males, no-one is represented to the same extent as the component in the Y-STR profile of Morris.

“It should be noted that the results do not allow the scientist to interpret how the DNA got onto the sock and therefore whether this was through directly touching the item or indirect transfer but the identification of this link has been possible due to the development of technology which would not have been available to the original investigation team.

“This is significant as the sock was recovered from the murder scene and it was widely accepted that it was used by the killer.

“The outcome of the forensic assessment and completion of further actions have not established any information that undermines the conviction of Morris. In my view, as the independent senior investigating officer, the new findings from the samples taken from the sock support the existing evidence that originally convicted him.”

Operation Dolomite also investigated accounts provided by two witnesses who featured in the BBC documentary. They were interviewed by officers and several enquiries were conducted to try and corroborate and support their accounts.  All this evidence was shared with the Crown Prosecution Service. None of the information provided by the witnesses undermines the conviction of Morris.

ACC Thorne added: “Notwithstanding the fact that Morris has been convicted based on overwhelming evidence against him, South Wales Police has shown a commitment to providing evidence-based answers to the issues which have been raised about this case over many years.

“This commitment has now resulted in a forensic link between the convicted killer David Morris and an item of great significance which was recovered from the murder scene. South Wales Police commissioned the review in the hope that we could in some way provide closure for those most affected by the murders. In particular, those who lost three generations of the same family and have had to revisit those painful memories time and time again over the last two decades.

“The findings from Operation Dolomite will be shared with the Criminal Cases Review Commission to complete the due process and demonstrate transparency.  However, in the knowledge of the conclusions drawn from this review, South Wales Police would like to show respect to the family and those affected by these terrible crimes by finalising this case.

“Our thoughts as ever remain with the family of Mandy Power, her children Katie, aged 10, and Emily, eight, and her 80-year-old mother Doris, who still experience such painful memories even to this day.”

Following the refusal by the CPS to look at new evidence before David Morris died, Janiene Morris, one of David Morris’s two daughters, said: “This is another massive blow to dad’s case and as a family we just don’t understand it.”

She said at the time that the evidence of a taxi driver who had sighted unidentified people near the murder scene had been discounted. In all, she said there were three witnesses that had placed others near the murder scene on the night of the killings.

“We’ve never met them and don’t want to because we want to do things properly. These witnesses have was not involved with anyone in the case and have absolutely no reason to lie. I cannot express how angry and frustrated we are right now. It is so frustrating, but we’re not going to take it lying down”.

Speaking in July, Janiene said: “He is up and down. He has good days and and bad days. Sometimes he is just exhausted with everything that is going on. We are looking forward to seeing him.”

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Moving the Welsh Economy Forward: “A Team Wales recovery, built by all of us” – Economy Minister

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT will pursue a progressive economic policy that focuses on better jobs, narrowing the skills divide and tackling poverty, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, will say today.

At a hybrid Economic Summit, the Minister has invited businesses, trades unions and local government leaders to discuss how Wales can create a stronger, fairer, greener economic future.

In setting out his vision to move the Welsh economy forward, the Minister will commit to extending a Team Wales model to offer ‘as much certainty as possible’ for businesses facing a volatile recovery.  

He will promise a new era of partnership to strengthen regional economic development, a delivery plan to back the everyday economy and wide ranging support for workers in a fast changing economy.

The Welsh Government will work with unions and business to develop it’s ‘something for something’ approach so that Welsh public money is wedded to action on fair work, decarbonisation and skills.

The Minister will also start a conversation about the long term demographic challenge facing the Welsh economy. The proportion of the population aged 16 to 64 years old in Wales has been decreasing year-on-year since mid-2008 – and could be just 58% of the population by 2043.

In response, Welsh Ministers’ approach will be geared towards creating an economy where more young people feel confident about planning their future in Wales thus supporting job creation and more dynamic local economies.

The Welsh Government will set out a vision of what makes Wales an attractive place to live, study, work and invest – including the quality of life in an inclusive, open and green nation.

The Welsh Government will also call on the Chancellor to demonstrate the UK Government’s ambition for Wales by honouring promises made on EU successor funds, backing major renewables such as tidal energy and investing in Welsh research and development.

Later, the Minister will visit a family-run business that’s received Welsh Government support to grow, before delivering a speech to a predominantly virtual audience of business, trades unions and local government leaders and other partners at Transport for Wales’ new HQ in Pontypridd.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “The Welsh Government is taking bold action to build a stronger, fairer, greener Welsh economy. It has taken a Team Wales effort to keep Wales safe and we will deliver a Team Wales Recovery, built by all of us. 

“A strong Welsh recovery will be based on the principles of fair work and sustainability as we invest in the industries and services of the future.

“As we face the headwinds of Brexit, I am determined that our credible plans will offer as much certainty as possible to help businesses plan ahead. 

“A new era of partnership for stronger regions, a young person’s guarantee, a plan to back our everyday economy and collaboration with world leading, advanced manufacturing. This is the cause for optimism for the future we are building in Wales.

“My ambition is to make Wales a place where more young people feel confident in planning their future here. You don’t have to get out to get on, make your future here in Wales.”

The Welsh Government’s approach includes:

  • Investing in our people – through the Young Person’s Guarantee and a strong employability and skills offer, including Apprenticeships;
  • Supporting those furthest away from the Labour market to find work. The upcoming Employability Strategy will highlight the support available for individuals, particularly those most impacted by the pandemic and furthest away from the labour market;
  • Accelerating the adaptation to new skills which are required for skilled, secure jobs, not least in the area of low carbon. The current recruitment challenge has also shown there is a need for some quick action on skills in certain sectors;
  • Exploring how we retain our graduates and talent in Wales by building strong linkages with universities, and between universities and businesses;
  • Support start-ups, including graduate start-ups, with possible incentives in some areas;
  • Ensure we have firms grounded in Wales who can provide future opportunities;
  • Wales can also benefit from the opportunities for far greater remote working and flexible commuting options.
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Welsh Conservatives pay tribute to murdered MP, Sir David Amess

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have released a statement following the murder of serving Member of Parliament, Sir David Amess on Friday (Oct 15).

Paul Davies MS said: “We are horrified by the death of Sir David Amess.

“Sir David was a much-respected and well-liked MP who cared deeply about serving his constituents, something he had done with distinction for nearly four decades.

“One of the longest-serving Members of Parliament, his contribution to public life was vast and he will be sorely missed by those in Southend and in the Conservative Party.

Paul Davies MS said: “We are horrified by the death of Sir David Amess (Pictured)

“Sadly, this shocking and abhorrent incident once again highlights the dangers that public servants can face, all of whom should be able to conduct such duties helping those they represent in safety.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends. May he rest in peace.”

Stephen Crabb MP took to social media to say: “Love and prayers for the family of Sir David Amess MP this afternoon. Just devastating. Funny, wise, compassionate, and such a good friend to so many of us.

“It was a delight to interview Sir David Amess back in May for a virtual book launch for his autobiography. So much warmth, humanity and love of the job he did so assiduously for almost 40 years. Parliament has lost one of its finest today.”

The MP for Southend West was stabbed at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, in Essex. He was there for one of his regular Friday meetings with his constituents.

Just 15 minutes before the attack, the 69-year-old was standing on the church steps, chatting and laughing with locals.

At around 12:05 PM, Sir David walked into the church alongside two female members of his staff to meet some more constituents.

Local councillor John Lamb said that it was then that the attacker emerged from a small group of waiting constituents and attacked Sir David, stabbing him several times.

“I’m told that when he went in for his surgery there were people waiting to see him, and one of them literally got a knife out and just began stabbing him,” Mr Lamb said.

Police arrived at the scene in Eastwood Road North within minutes where they found the MP with multiple injuries and arrested a man.

“We knew it must be very serious because the paramedics had been working on Sir David for over two and a half hours and they hadn’t got him on the way to hospital,” Mr Lamb told the PA news agency.

At 14:13 an air ambulance arrived at a nearby sports ground to move him to hospital. However, members of his team began to fear the worst as paramedics remained at the scene.

Shortly before 15:00, Essex Police said Sir David had died.

At a press conference later Chief Constable BJ Harrington said officers and paramedics had worked extremely hard to save the MP.

Questions are now being raised about security arrangements for politicians working in their constituencies.

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