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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Police boss vows to step up fight against paedophiles


* Gareth Palmieri, high tech crimes technician, at work watched by PCC Arfon Jones.

A police boss has vowed to step up the fight against online paedophiles after hearing a new crack team has made more than 60 arrests in its first eight months.

According to newly-elected North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, keeping children safe is one of the most important jobs done by the force.

Mr Jones, a former police inspector, was speaking during a visit to find out more about the Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) which was established last October to tackle the emerging threat of child sexual exploitation via the internet.

Since then POLIT has executed over 70 warrants and made more than 60 arrests, working alongside the force's Cyber Crime Team and High Tech Crime Unit based in St Asaph.

The growing threat of online child sexual exploitation, said Mr Jones, was one of the biggest things that had changed since he retired from North Wales Police eight years ago.

Mr Jones said: "I would like to congratulate the POLIT and the colleagues in the High Tech and Cyber Crime teams for their work in a very challenging area of policing.

"Online child sexual exploitation is a vile crime committed by dangerous and devious people who come from every section of society and often appear to be leading outwardly respectable lives.

"I’m pleased that we’re investing so many resources in tackling online sexual exploitation because the care of children is the most important thing we do.

"Paedophiles are becoming increasingly sophisticated so it is vitally important that we respond accordingly with a team of our own experts catching those committing these types of crime and bringing them to justice.

"This problem isn’t going to go away and we need to concentrate on raising awareness, education and reducing harm and I think there is some excellent work being done to reach this priority.

"I’m very happy to support the force in providing as much resources as needed to ensure that children, wherever they may be in the world, are safe."

The POLIT is led by Detective Inspector Sion Williams, who also has operational responsibility for the high tech and cyber-crime teams.

He said:  “The team deal with what are essentially digital crime scenes.

"In the main, 80 per cent of our time is spent dealing with a variety of online child sexual exploitation offences including those more serious incidents when adults are actively online, identifying children they can engage with in social networking sites, trying to gain their trust.  This kind of abuse is real and can lead on to more serious offences taking place.
 
"We need to remember, although it is appearing on a computer screen, this is live child abuse, happening in a different country but being orchestrated by an individual living in North Wales. 

"Clearly, we will deal with this type of individual but we will also deal with the wider issues and work with our partner agencies to make sure that the relevant intelligence is then shared with law enforcement agencies in those affected countries so that they can take appropriate action.

"Safeguarding children, wherever they may be, is our number one priority. We are also determined to ensure the level of the defendants’ offending and the threat they pose to children is clearly identified to the court so that whatever sentence is passed is the appropriate sentence in accordance with the sentencing guidelines.

"Since POLIT was established new processes have been adopted and so far the team has already surpassed the number of arrests made for this type of offending in 2015. This can only be good news.

"Whilst we are arresting significantly more suspects, we have managed to adopt an effective streamlined process where those offenders who commit crimes of this type  are dealt with expeditiously and brought to justice at the earliest opportunity. This considerably reduces the risk of further offences being committed.

“The message needs to be clear here, and this should therefore be a warning of our intention to those engaged in this heinous type of criminality - it will only be a matter of time before they are afforded our tenacious attention.

"The devastating effect that online child sexual exploitation has on children is wholly apparent. However, our subsequent interaction not only has serious consequences for those who are offending, but also has broader implications for their family and friends. 

"Every day we operate is a game changer. Our activity is clearly making the communities in which we live far safer for our children - and that’s what matters."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Virus-hit Katherine replaced by Kate at Eisteddfod


* Kate Aldrich will replace Katherine Jenkins in Carmen on the festival's opening night.

A virus has forced Katherine Jenkins to pull out of a concert in North Wales on medical advice but organisers have lined up a "truly world class" opera star to replace her.

The classically-trained Welsh singer was "devastated" after being been struck down by a nasty viral infection but now globally renowned American mezzo soprano, Kate Aldrich, will take centre stage at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod instead.

It's been revealed one of the world's greatest singers, opera superstar Bryn Terfel, who will be appearing in concert at the festival on the Thursday night, along with his representative, Matthew Todd, from the Harlequin agency, pulled out all the stops to help the Eisteddfod out in their hour of need.

They worked closely with the festival's musical director, Eilir Owen Griffiths, to advise on a suitable replacement and secure Aldrich's services. 

As a result, the American diva will be starring alongside fellow American, top tenor Noah Stewart, in a special concert version of Bizet's opera Carmen on the opening night of the iconic festival on Tuesday, July 5.

She rose to international fame in 2002 through her starring role in the Zeffirelli production of Aida and went on to win the CulturArte Award at the Operalia International Opera Competition. In 2006 she won the Alfréd Radok Award and the Thalia Award in the Czech Republic.

Aldrich has been hailed by critics as "the Carmen of this generation" and has performed the popular opera with the brilliant German tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. 

Festival chairman Dr Rhys Davies said: "I have real sympathy for Katherine because I know how much this role meant to her. We are really sorry about this but Katherine is unable to perform Carmen.

"On the other hand, we have been unbelievably lucky to be able to sign up a truly world class opera singer in her place.

"Kate Aldrich really is one of the brightest opera stars in the world and Carmen is her signature role, she already knows the part inside out and has performed it to huge acclaim at the world's greatest opera houses. The fact that she's coming to Llangollen to perform is very exciting and the audience is in for a huge treat."

According to her management Katherine was "absolutely gutted' that she is unable to perform in Llangollen.

Katherine said: "I have been looking forward to and have been preparing for my return to Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod for many many months, not only because it is one of my favourite venues but because this was my opportunity to perform my dream role. I am devastated at the timing of this illness during the most crucial rehearsal period.

"Under the circumstances, I was delighted and thankful to learn that Kate Aldrich is available to step in and I am certain she will create a brilliant and wonderful evening for all. I just wish I could be there."

For her part Kate Aldrich was looking forward immensely to her first ever visit to Llangollen.
She said: "I'd like to send my commiserations to Katherine along with my best wishes for a speedy recovery.

"Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod is an iconic event and I can't wait to follow in the footsteps of operatic giants like Luciano Pavarotti who have graced the famous pavilion stage in the past.

"Carmen is one of my favourite roles and I've heard that the audience in Llangollen is a very knowledgeable and appreciative one, so I'm looking forward to a special night singing with Noah and the other talented singers in the ensemble."

The concert is being sponsored by the arts-loving care organisation Pendine Park, who have bases in Wrexham and Caernarfon.

Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said: "We were naturally looking forward to seeing Katherine Jenkins but, given the situation, I think the Eisteddfod has pulled off a fantastic coup in signing up a hugely talented singer of Kate Aldrich's calibre who is undoubtedly one of the world's finest exponents of Carmen. It promises to be a wonderful night."

While disappointed that Katherine Jenkins was not able to be there, Eilir Owen Griffiths, the festival's musical director, was equally excited at the prospect of hearing Kate Aldrich's version of Carmen.

Eilir said: "I am extremely grateful to Bryn Terfel and Matthew Todd from the Harlequin agency, who represent him, for all their help in arranging for Kate to come to Llangollen.

"I know Bryn and Matthew spoke to their contacts, including some of the biggest names in the opera world, before recommending Kate as the perfect replacement.

"She is a spectacularly gifted mezzo soprano and the concert on opening night will I am sure provide a fitting launch for the whole week.

"We also have some wonderful artists who will be joining Kate and Noah Stewart on stage. Baritones Adam Gilbert will play the role of El Dancairo and Lukask Karauda the role of Escamillo.

“We also have Welsh mezzo-soprano Caryl Hughes, of Aberdaron playing Mercedes and tenor Trystan Griffiths, who hails from Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire, playing El Remenado.

“The orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, under the baton of Anthony Inglis, and the voices of Ruthin’s Cȏr Cytgan Clwyd will add to what will be a magical night of music and drama.”

* To hear Kate Aldrich sing go to  www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqRqmvHt0zA
or more information about the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod, including tickets, visit www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

North Wales police introduce body video cameras



* PCC Arfon Jones with  PC Martin Taylor at North Wales Police Headquarters.

North Wales Police will become the first force in Wales to issue  body worn video equipment to all frontline officers when they're on duty.

The news was announced by newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones at his first meeting of the  Police and Crime Panel yesterday (Monday, June 27).

Body worn video, which captures evidence of crimes as they happen, was introduced in North Wales last year, with 120 kits being deployed across the region.

Mr Jones is now delivering on his pre-election campaign promise to make sure all police officers and police community support officers can use the crime-fighting technology while they're working.



* Close-up: The body worn video camera.
He's giving nearly £163,000 to buy an extra 301 devices to make a total of 421 across the force area.

Later this year additional devices will be also be bought for specialist officers like members of the firearms team.

One area where the cameras have proved themselves particularly useful is in the aftermath of an incident of domestic violence where evidence of any injuries and damage can be gathered along with the behaviour and demeanour of the aggressor and the victim.

Mr Jones said: "Body worn video improves evidence gathering and secures more convictions, especially in domestic violence cases. It also resolves complaints against the police because the evidence caught on camera is incontrovertible.

“Nationally, according to the College of Policing, the chance of a successful prosecution in domestic violence cases has risen from 72 per cent to 81 per cent if there is a body worn video footage in front of a jury.

"Body worn video is good for everybody except for the criminals. There is absolutely nothing to be concerned with in terms of you being filmed and if nothing untoward has happened the footage is wiped from the system in 30 days.

“It’s making North Wales a safer place because we’re getting increased early prosecutions, we’re protecting vulnerable people from domestic violence and other sorts of related violence

“It also means that vulnerable victims don’t have to go to go court to give evidence because the evidence is overwhelming from the body worn camera footage.”

Chief Superintendent Sacha Hatchett, who is in charge of Operational Support Services at North Wales Police, said: “The force is grateful to Mr Jones for recognising the value of body worn video and for finding the extra cash to fund the additional 301 devices.

“The model is real time 100 per cent deployment so there will always be one available for an operational police officer or a PCSO when they're on duty.

“In North Wales, we’ve had some recent examples where we’ve had early guilty pleas in court while the prosecution and the sanctions against the individual were much more substantial because the jury and the judge could actually see a visual representation of the scene of the crime.

“They could see the phone ripped from the wall.  They could see the damage, the pictures.  They can see the victim’s injures there and then.  They can see the persona of the offender in various states of drunkenness.

“The feedback from the Crown Prosecution Service has been excellent and there is a belief that body worn video is making a real difference."


“Body worn video is a good technology. We were able to show through piloting the devices that this is a sound investment to support officers in policing the streets safely and capturing evidence of bad behaviour and criminal activity.

"The fact that the Police and Crime Commissioner has sanctioned the purchase of the extra kits is great and welcomed news for North Wales.”

Richard Eccles, the Secretary of the North Wales Police Federation, added: “It is brilliant to see that the commissioner is delivering on his promise and ensuring that every frontline Officer has 24/7 access to these cameras.

"The benefits to the officers and to the communities are huge; these cameras are already capturing accurate footage of the situations that police officers face on the streets of North Wales.

"Increased convictions, reduced complaints and greater public confidence will be delivered through this investment by the PCC.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Band's indoor garden party is a big hit


* The youth band opens the programme.

Wet weather helped turn what should have been yesterday's Picnic in the Garden by Llangollen Silver Band and their guest performers into a brilliant bash in the Town Hall.

Instead of the grounds of Plas Newydd where it was due to be staged, the afternoon concert was switched indoors when organisers saw the forecast for rain.

But indoors or outdoors it was still an amazing showcase for local talent.

Members of the youth band opened the varied programme with a selection of lively numbers.

Next on stage came the drama group from Ysgol Bryn Collen to sing out a series of hits from musicals such as Annie and The Sound Music.

Cellist Florence Harvey played a Bach prelude and received warm applause.

Delighting the audience with their harp, guitar playing and singing were sisters Katie and Elizabeth Mwale.

There was a sizzling set by the training band before the senior band rounded off a highly enjoyable afternoon with some rousing and moving tunes.


* The drama group from Ysgol Bryn Collen takes the stage.



* Elizabeth and Katie Mwale perform.


* The senior band wrap up the concert in style.


















Sunday, June 26, 2016

Come to the Cabaret at New Dot's latest screening


* Liza with a Zee: Liza Minelli stars in Cabaret. 

The town's New Dot Cinema is kicking off this year’s Llangollen Fringe Festival in style with a screening of classic 1970s film Cabaret.

* Blues singer Betzy Jean.
The gala event is on Wednesday July 13 in the main room of Llangollen Town Hall.

Cinema organiser Yvonne Ryan said: "It's one of the greatest musicals of all time - eight Oscars, a divinely decadent score and Liza Minnelli – it’s the perfect way to get into the festival spirit this summer."

In addition to the main feature, rumour has it that the night will climax with an exciting blues singer, Betzy Jean, performing an exclusive, intimate set.

Formerly from Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, her power and passion is sure to raise goosebumps.

Doors open at 7.30pm and the show starts at 8pm, ending at 11pm.

There's a licensed bar and homemade cake, with popcorn and ice cream served at your seat.

Tickets are £8 (£5 concessions) and are available at Bailey's deli and Maxine's cafe in Llangollen. Also online at www.newdotcinema.org and www.llangollenfringe.co.uk

As before, audience members are encouraged to dress up, this time in a hedonistic 1930s style.

Concession price tickets are available for those dressed in suitable vintage or themed attire, as well as the under 18's, over 60's, bus pass holders and students.


Cabaret (1972, cert 15), is set in Berlin during the last heady, bohemian days just before the Nazis seized power.


* The Mayor & Mayoress of Llangollen, Mike and Melanie Adams, promote Cabaret.

It tells the story of life inside and outside the Kit Kat Club where Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), an exuberant young American singer, and the club’s leering emcee (Joel Grey) sound the call for decadent fun, while outside the doors of the club, the brutality of the rising Nazi party is becoming all too clear.

When Sally falls for Brian (Michael York), a young English university student, the two become caught in the intrigues and decadence of a world on the brink of tumultuous change.

* Read more online www.NewDotCinema.org on Facebook: www.facebook.com/newdotcinema or  Twitter: www.twitter.com/newdotcinema

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Campaign to improve homes' energy efficiency launched

Denbighshire County Council and the Welsh Government are joining forces to improve the energy efficiency of homes across the county.

The local authority has teamed up with the Welsh Government Warm Homes Nest Scheme which supports low income families struggling with their energy bills.

The scheme provides a range of advice and support for householders, and free home improvements for residents who receive a means tested benefit and own or rent a home that is particularly hard to heat.

Officers at Denbighshire County Council have undertaken detailed data analysis of properties across the county to identify households that are eligible to receive the free assistance.

Councillor David Smith, Cabinet Lead Member, said: “We are keen to ensure that every household in Denbighshire which meets the Nest Scheme criteria can benefit from the scheme. Nest provides much needed support to low income families who are often paying high energy bills due to the inefficiency of their property.

“We will be sending letters directly to households which we think may benefit from the scheme but we would encourage any household in need of advice and support to contact the scheme directly.”

Lee Parry, Head of Nest, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Denbighshire County Council. Their innovative approach to data analysis and their commitment to their local residents will help the Nest Scheme to reach as many low income households as possible.”

“The Welsh Government funded free home improvements, including new central heating systems and insulation, are often too expensive to replace for households in receipt of a means tested benefit. By working in partnership we will be able to help the Council support its local residents.”

Denbighshire County Council and the Nest Scheme will be holding a series of roadshows across the county in the One-Stop Shops to provide an opportunity for local residents to find out more about the scheme.  The local one will be at Llangollen Library on Wednesday July 6, from 1.30pm-3.30pm.

The Nest Scheme can also be contacted on Freephone 0808 808 2244 or at www.nestwales.org.uk.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Denbighshire joins UK in voting to LEAVE EU

The UK has voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union after 43 years in yesterday’s referendum, the BBC’s online news service reported just before 6.30am.

The report says London and Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU but the remain vote has been undermined by poor results in the north of England.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage hailed the result as the UK's "independence day", it adds.

The majority of Denbighshire voters opted to leave.
At just after 2.20am this morning, the county council announced the result of the poll in the county.

Of the 52,108 people who voted, 28,177 went for Leave against  23,955 who chose Remain.
The turnout was 69.1% (52,108 people voted out of 75,362 people eligible to vote).

The number of postal votes issued was 15,177 – the number returned was 13,035 (85.9%).
The number of polling stations was 67.