IN THE PAST two years, 1229 alcohol-related crimes have been committed by children in Wales.
Details of the crimes – which range from rape and assault to criminal damage and possession of a weapon – were made public following a Freedom of Information request from the Welsh Conservatives.
‘A RUINOUS EFFECT ON YOUNGSTERS’
The data from each of Wales’ four police forces show that children as young as 10 are accessing alcohol and committing violent crime.
Between 2014 and 2016, North Wales Police reported 375 incidences of crime committed by people aged 18 and under; South Wales Police reported 250 incidences; Dyfed- Powys Police reported 182; while Gwent Police reported 105 incidences in the last year alone.
Prevalence of crimes committed by underage drinkers was highest in Carmarthenshire (137 arrests), followed closely by Wrexham (113 arrests), then by Bridgend (106 arrests).
Some of the more disturbing crimes recorded were 11 accounts of rape in north Wales – with one offender aged just 13; five offences of racially or religiously aggravated incidences in south Wales, including actual bodily harm and beatings; 10 offences of drug possession in Dyfed- Powys; and four arrests for drink driving in Gwent.
Angela Burns AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Health, said: “It’s clear from the data that alcohol is having a ruinous effect on many Welsh youngsters and the communities in which they live.
“As these crimes demonstrate, underage drinking is fuelling some heinous antisocial behaviour at a huge cost to the public purse and to the victims they affect.
“A criminal record also carries a cost; an offender’s life prospects are likely to be significantly diminished, affecting employment opportunities and even car insurance premiums.
“Police forces and health services need to work much more closely with schools to develop an effective programme of education warning children against the dangers of substance misuse.
“The numbers make plain the fact that the Welsh Government’s strategy for tackling substance misuse is failing far too many of our most vulnerable members of society.
“More focus should be placed on empowering communities to respond to their problems, which are often unique in nature and in scale to their locality.”
COSTS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE ‘INCALCULABLE’
Mark Isherwood AM, Shadow Secretary for Social Justice, said: “The cost to society of alcohol abuse is incalculable and is often a contributory factor in poor health, unwanted pregnancy and, as these figures show, youth crime.
“The deep-rooted causes of underage drinking must be tackled through interventions that are targeted at children and young people most vulnerable to this kind of behaviour – before they take a collision course with the law.
“The Welsh Government needs to work far better with headteachers and the voluntary and independent sectors to find innovative and joined up solutions to this unacceptable antisocial issue.”
YOUNG DRINKERS ALSO VICTIMS
At first glance, official figures on drinking habits indicate that, in recent years, while young people have been drinking above the average unit consumption per week, they now drink less than the UK average. Young people also drink fewer times during the week than most other age groups. But when they do drink, a significant proportion engage in heavy episodic or ‘binge’ drinking. The most notable example of this is among young women; the highest age-specific proportion of female binge drinkers are in the 16 to 24 year-old age bracket.
These current trends are at odds with the wider historical overview of young persons’ alcohol consumption in the UK.
In the interwar period, they were the lightest drinkers in the adult population and the group most likely to abstain. Nor did alcohol play a significant part in the youth culture that came into existence in the 1950s, this being more likely to involve the coffee bar than the pub.
It was not until the 1960s that pubs and drinking became an integral part of the youth scene. By the 1980s, young people had become the heaviest drinkers in the population, and the group least likely to abstain. This has resulted in continuous rises in the number of admissions to hospitals over the past decade, and in the case of females aged between 15 and 34, a doubling in the rate of alcohol-related deaths in the last 20 years.
A number of academic studies have found links between young people drinking and being involved in fights, sustaining injuries and committing violent crime. Frequent, heavy or problem drinking in 15 and 16-year-olds is associated with violent but not property offences, while other research has found a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence is associated with both.
Survey evidence also suggests that teenage drinkers are more likely to carry weapons. Conversely, it has been shown that 11–16 who drink more or are more frequently drunk are more susceptible to being the victims of violent attacks.
MISUSE OF ALCOHOL PRIORITISED
The Herald put the Conservative’s statement to Dyfed-Powys Police, and Temporary Chief Inspector Dyfed Bolton told us: “Alcohol misuse and related crime is an issue that the police face in every area and Dyfed-Powys is no exception. Misuse of alcohol by young people is prioritised and there are initiatives in place to try and tackle this and ensure young people don’t get involved with alcohol in the first place.
“Officers regularly visit local schools as part of the All Wales School Liaison Core Programme, and this offers a series of lesson plans addressing key areas of concern around substance misuse. The programme also aims to deter children from crime, and sets out clearly the consequences of committing various crimes, as well as the harm alcohol and crimes have on them and others around them, not just in the short-term but also for their future.
“Reducing the harm caused by alcohol consumption is a priority for Dyfed-Powys Police, and we work with our partners to deliver lessons and provide support to youngsters on the serious consequences of under-age drinking and any associated anti-social behaviour and various crimes, and take further action where necessary. Hard hitting ‘Paul’s Pledge’ has also been delivered in schools and colleges throughout the force area to hammer home the devastating consequences of alcohol-related violent crime.”
AN ALL-TIME LOW
We approached the Welsh Government for a response to the Conservatives’ claims and a robust defence was offered of the Welsh Government’s record.
A spokesperson told us: “It is important to put these figures in context. Drinking among 11 to 15-year-olds in Wales has declined sharply since the late 1990s. It is now at a record low.
“We work closely with the Youth Justice Board on preventing young people from entering the youth justice system through early intervention and diversion – including those young people who misuse drugs and alcohol. We also ring fence £2.75m of our Substance Misuse Action Fund to provide support and services to children and young people in Wales.
“The All Wales Schools Liaison Programme goes into every primary and secondary school in Wales to raise awareness of the harm caused by substance misuse, including alcohol.”
DIRECT ACTION MUST BE TAKEN
Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said: “Underage drinking can cause huge problems in society, and the accounts of alcohol-related crime released by the four police forces are very worrying.
“But as well as considering the impact of these crimes on the community, we must consider causes of such behaviour.
“We need to work with young people who are offenders, and Plaid Cymru has long called for greater emphasis on education in order to improve children’s welfare from the early years. Where children are found to be struggling, we want to maintain counselling services for them.
“But we also need to take direct action to stop young people drinking too much. The introduction of a minimum price for alcohol can help combat the very cheap and very potent alcohol that creates so many problems in our communities. Research shows that a price rise is often linked to a reduction in consumption, so this is something we need to consider.”
ALCOHOL MISUSE HAS DEVASTATING EFFECT
Regional AM Eluned Morgan responded to the Conservatives’ criticism by telling The Herald: “Alcohol and substance misuse can have devastating effects on individuals, families, and communities. Patterns of alcohol consumption are changing and it’s of great concern that increasing numbers of people are damaging their health through excessive drinking.”
She explained: “We need to focus on what drives people to misuse drugs or alcohol, whether the right national approach and local services are in place to raise awareness of their harms, and to give people help when they need it most. That’s why it’s so important that the Welsh Government is taking action at a strategic level in order to raise awareness of the harms associated with alcohol and substance misuse, as well as tackle them. Improved training may be also required for GPs – there has been an associated rise in the prevalence of alcohol related conditions.
“The Wales Bill, which I am leading on for the Opposition in the House of Lords, seeks to provide the Assembly with an appropriate set of powers to enable the Welsh Government to address problems such as those relating to alcohol and substance misuse. At the moment, the Assembly’s powers are limited by the UK Government. This is why it’s so important for the Wales Bill to add to the powers of the Government in Wales to act in a way which benefits the people of Wales, not roll them back as the Conservatives in Westminster are doing.”
Police say ‘stop protecting’ murder suspect Steve Baxter
JUST over two weeks ago Simon Clark, aged 54, was found dead at Grove Caravan Park in Pendine, Carmarthenshire.
Dyfed-Powys Police is continuing its manhunt for Steve Baxter, who is wanted on suspicion of Simon’s murder.
Baxter also known as Steve Tidy, Steve Rowley, Wayne Tidy or William Tidy, is aged 52, 5’5” (1.65cm) tall and has tattoos on his forearms – the name Chez and entwined circles on his left arm and a serpent on his right arm.
He has connections in the West Wales, South Wales, South West and North England areas of the UK.
Officers and staff are working round the clock to follow all possible lines of enquiry.
The independent charity Crimestoppers is also offering a reward of up to £5,000 for information leading to the arrest of Steve Baxter and he has been added to the Most Wanted section of their website. Information would be taken by the charity anonymously.
Detective Superintendent Huw Davies said: “It’s over two weeks since Simon Clark was murdered at Grove Caravan Park, Pendine.
“The manhunt for Steve Baxter is ongoing and I must stress to the public that officers and staff are working round the clock to investigate all possible lines of enquiry that could lead us to him.
“I urge anyone with information of Baxter’s whereabouts to come forward. If you do not want to speak to police directly, you can speak to the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously, which is also offering a reward of up to £5,000 for information leading to his arrest.
“Someone knows where he is or has been in the last two weeks. Please stop protecting him. Simon Clark’s family deserve to see all those involved in his death brought to justice.”
Four people have been charged in connection with the murder: Jeffrey Stephen Ward, aged 40, from Pendine, has been charged with murder; Linda Mary Rowley, aged 52, from Pendine, has been charged with assisting an offender (murder); Kirston Macklin, aged 52, from Newport, Gwent, has been charged with assisting an offender (murder) and Julie Louise Harris, aged 46, from Tonypandy, has been charged with assisting an offender (murder).
If you see Steve Baxter call Dyfed-Powys Police on 999. Do not approach him.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Steve Baxter call Dyfed-Powys Police on 101 immediately.
To pass on information anonymously, contact Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through the non-traceable anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
National Adoption Week – Can you give a child a home?
HAVING a caring family and a place they call home is what a lot of children take for granted; however, there are children in Ceredigion who are still looking for a home of their own. As part of National Adoption Week, which is happening between 15 and 21 October, people are being asked to consider opening their homes and their hearts to those waiting for a family.
An information evening is being held in The Atom, 18 King Street, Carmarthen, on Friday, October 19 from 6pm-7.30pm. The Cabinet Member with responsibility for Learning Services and Lifelong Learning and Champion for Children and Young People Councillor Catrin Miles said, “This is a great opportunity for prospective adopters to find out more about the process of adopting children in the county who are waiting for loving, permanent and stable homes. It will also be a chance to meet other prospective adopters.”
Adoption Mid and West Wales has adoption teams covering the four local authorities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys. Their aim is to make sure that children grow up as part of a permanent, loving family from childhood through to adulthood.
Sara*, from Ceredigion has spoken of her experiences of going through the adoption process and welcoming two children into her loving home, “Just two years after submitting our application to adopt, two little hurricanes arrived at our house and turning it into a noisy, happy home full of fun. The first stage of the application was to attend three days of training, over a period of 6 weeks. The training was important and an eye-opener for all kinds of reasons but it was perfect for focusing the mind to make sure we really wanted to adopt. We had excellent support from our social worker, but the process itself was long and challenging and we had to wait and wait while legal processes were going on. Although it was so difficult at that time, looking back it was worth every minute. The hardest thing for us was that there were months between seeing the children for the first time and receiving confirmation that they would come to us to live. This was an exception, the process is usually quicker.”
“In our experience creating and maintaining a good relationship with the foster family is crucial. They are a source of information and support. Before the children came to live with us, we needed over a week of presentations in the foster family’s home – this time is key but full of weight, pleasure, tiredness and emotion. That was months ago and now the children are happy and bubbly with us in their new home and enjoy being part of a loving group of family, friends and relatives. They enjoy going to the local school and Welsh learning was not a problem for them, they even dream in Welsh now!”
“Adoption is a great journey that is sometimes easy and sometimes difficult and it is important to understand and accept that before venturing on the journey. It is also important to take advantage of all support, training and advice on offer. There are many challenges ahead, a lot of disappointment and tears but more importantly, much laughter, love and happiness fills our lives now and in the future. Go for it.”
In the last year (2017-18), 29 adopters were approved through Adoption Mid and West Wales. These include married couples, unmarried couples, single people and same-sex couples. There is always the need for more adopters to come forward as demand for adoption placements has increased this year.
For more information, visit www.adoptionmwwales.org.uk. You can also follow Adoption Mid & West Wales on their Twitter page, @adoptmw_wales.
Residents sought for involvement into Pen Dinas project
RESIDENTS are being sought for involvement in the Pen Dinas Hillfort project.
Grant funding for improvements to Pendinas Hillfort has been successfully secured by Ceredigion County Council and as part of the project, the Council is seeking for local residents to express their interest if they would like to be involved in the work. One of the Council’s Community Access Officers will be on hand to talk further about the project on Saturday, 20 October at the Hub, Penparcau Community Centre between 10:30am and 1pm.
The project will provide greater access to a site of historical importance namely Pen Dinas Hillfort, Local Nature Reserve and Scheduled Ancient Monument. It will also improve links to the Ystwyth/Rheidol Cycle Trails, the Ceredigion and All Wales Coast Path and other local amenities and attractions. Improving the path width and surface will increase access to a wider cross-section of residents and visitors and target current barriers to the countryside.
Councillor Rhodri Evans, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Economy and Regeneration said, “The news that we’ve been successful in securing this bid is fantastic and on behalf of the Council, I thank all the residents who submitted feedback to the application. We are looking for anyone who has an interest in the site and would like to be involved with how this project progresses. This is the perfect opportunity for residents to be part of something that will make a big difference to both residents and tourists alike.”
To express an interest to be involved in the project or to receive further information, email Eifion.Jones@ceredigion.gov.uk or call 01545 570881.
Popular This Week
News2 weeks ago
Man charged with murder following Aberystwyth hotel fire
News2 days ago
Police urge for only ‘essential travel’ during Storm Callum
News1 day ago
Police name Carmarthenshire man killed by Storm Callum landslide
News4 days ago
New Quay RNLI in dramatic dog rescue
News2 weeks ago
Former AM pleads guilty to making indecent images of children
News1 day ago
Council releases latest updates as Storm Callum passes
News1 day ago
Aberaeron: Boats lost as Storm Callum wreaks havoc in harbour
News1 day ago
Police issue advice to the public over ongoing A484 closures