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Dic Penderyn pardon gathers steam

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A memorial: Erected to Dic Penderyn

A memorial: Erected to Dic Penderyn

NEARLY two centuries after he went to the gallows protesting his innocence, a campaign seeking a posthumous pardon for one of south Wales’ best-known martyrs is under way.

Richard Lewis, more commonly known as Dic Penderyn, was a miner working in Merthyr Tydfil at the time of the Merthyr Uprising of 1831. Along with another man, Lewis Lewis, he was convicted of wounding a Scottish Dragoon who was part of the force brought in to quell the disturbance. At least sixteen of the protesters were killed, and it is considered that this figure represented a deliberate underestimation.

Although the soldier was unable to identify either of his ‘assailants,’ the pair were convicted. Lewis Lewis had his sentence commuted to Transportation after the testimony of a special constable, who Lewis shielded from rioters, was heard.

The case caused outrage across south Wales and further afield. A petition demanding a pardon for Richard Lewis received 11,000 signatures, and it was widely believed that he had been targeted for his involvement with workers’ rights groups. A Quaker ironmaster who initially went to comfort Lewis during his incarceration, became so convinced of his innocence that he convinced the trial judge that the conviction was unsafe.

However, the Home Secretary at the time, Viscount Melbourne, who had described south Wales in Parliament as ‘the worst and most formidable district in the kingdom’, granted a two-week stay of execution but refused to review the sentence. It has been subsequently claimed that his refusal to review Lewis’ sentence was motivated more by the desire to make an example of someone than through any legal motivation.

Richard Lewis was hanged at the old Cardiff Jail on August 13 1831. He was just 23 years-old. His last words were “O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd” (“Oh Lord, here is iniquity”). He was buried in Aberavon.

The Merthyr Uprising is considered to be one of the touchstones of industrial action in south Wales, and Richard Lewis has long been considered a martyr by workers and Unions alike. One of the solicitors campaigning for his pardon, Bernard de Maid, has said that ‘the irony of this is if he had not gone to the gallows, Wales would have had one hero less’.

Richard Lewis has been the subject of many songs, poems, and works of fiction. Gwyn Thomas’ All Things Betray Thee was a thinly fictionalised treatment of the Merthyr Uprising, and when researching his novel The Fire People, Alexander Cordell claimed to have found new evidence that proved Lewis’ innocence.

In 2000, Mr de Maid began proceedings to challenge the original decision, pointing out that the testimony of 12 witnesses who stated that Lewis was innocent was not heard at the original trial.

Jane Hall, a descendant of Lewis, who lives in St Dogmaels, has been involved in the campaign, which was started by her late mother, since 2000, along with her four sisters. At present, the National Assembly is joining in calls to the Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove to ‘grant Richard Lewis a pardon at the earliest possible opportunity’.

The petition has received cross-party support, and has been signed by Labour AM Joyce Watson, and Preseli Pembrokeshire’s Paul Davies, among others. Eighteen AMs have already signed.

Speaking to the Herald, Mrs Hall said that the original conviction had been a ‘major injustice’. “I know there have been many injustices in the world since, but in this case 16 people were killed by soldiers that night and that wasn’t enough. They had to make an example. The family has always considered that a great wrong was done to an innocent man. It would be rather nice if history could be righted.”

When we asked Mrs Hall how the appeal was progressing, she told us that it was ‘a wait and see game’.

“It’s in the lap of Michael Gove now,” she added.

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Health

Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June

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ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.

A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.

An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.

The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.

Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”

If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.

All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.

It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.

Please check for local arrangements.

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Health

Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services

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MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.

Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.

Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.

“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”

Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.

They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS

Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”

“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”

Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.

The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.

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Business

Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre

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LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.

In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.

This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”

“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”

“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”

“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”

“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”

“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”

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