A UNIT dedicated to stopping online child sexual exploitation and the sharing of indecent images of children has carried out 16 positive warrants in the five months since it was established.
A Police Online Investigation Team (POLIT) was set up as part of the Digital Communications and Cyber Crime Unit at Dyfed-Powys Police in March, in response to a growing concern of offenders committing crime online.
The team is made up of digital media investigators, forensic examiners, intelligence officers and analytical staff, who begin a case by collating intelligence from various sources about those suspected to be carrying out offences online.
Detective Sergeant Mathew Davies, of POLIT, said: “We are working closely with partner agencies in both the UK and US to identify offenders operating online viewing and sharing indecent images of children. I would like to warn people living in the Dyfed-Powys Police force area that we are proactively targeting those who carry out such activities, and the next knock at the door could be officers from my team.”
As well as police officers, digital forensic investigators attend search warrants to examine mobile phones and computers at the property.
DS Davies said: “Having experienced digital forensic investigators present at these warrants enables police to carry out examinations at the premises. This process of triage has resulted in police identifying early evidence on suspects’ devices and prevents the seizure of partners’ or children’s devices, which can leave families inconvenienced for lengthy periods. Having this evidence prior to interview can also result in suspects entering an early guilty plea.”
The nature of the cases investigated by POLIT involve considerable intelligence-gathering from various sources, the interrogation and analysis of data, identifying offenders and working with other police departments and partner agencies.
DS Davies added: “The implementation of the POLIT team at Dyfed-Powys embraces the need for improved digital working and makes a substantial contribution to the efficiency of bringing those offenders who commit this type of crime quickly to justice.
“The investment made by Dyfed-Powys Police in POLIT and the DCCU is recognition of the changing nature of crime. Offenders are increasingly using the internet and technology to harm children. If people choose to engage in this type of hideous and despicable crime then they can expect that specialist police officers will detect their activity. The implementation of the team embraces the need for improved digital working and makes a substantial contribution to the efficiency of bringing those offenders who commit this type of crime quickly to justice.
“Safeguarding young people and vulnerable persons is a priority for Dyfed-Powys Police and we would urge anyone with information about offences involving children to contact us.”
One of the partners POLIT works with is the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which aims to prevent the sexual abuse of children by working with protective adults. The foundation believes that changing offenders is one of the best ways of protecting children, and police suggest that offenders contact them for intervention in managing their behaviour.
Tom Squire, clinical manager at child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation and Stop it Now! Wales, added: “There is no justification whatsoever for looking at sexual images of anyone under 18. Anyone who does needs to know that what they are doing is a serious crime and causes great harm to the children in the pictures. So we very much welcome the scaling up of police work in Dyfed-Powys to tackle this serious and growing crime.
“If we are serious about tackling this growing problem, we also need to prioritise work to prevent this crime from happening in the first place. That’s why we offer confidential support and advice to stop people looking at indecent images of children, and to stay stopped.
“People can access this help on a completely anonymous basis – either via our Stop it Now! Helpline on 0808 1000 900, or via the Stop it Now! website.”
Sentencing of Michael Nathan Cohen, Kidwelly
There have been occasions where officers conducting a warrant have discovered suspects in the process of viewing indecent images, and others where the offender has made an effort to delete or hide the files.
The home of Michael Nathan Cohen, of Monskford, Kidwelly, was deliberately targeted during the early hours of June 27 as intelligence showed that was when he was more likely to be committing an offence. It proved correct, as Cohen was viewing a video when they entered his house.
DS Davies said: “Officers attended the address and caught the offender watching a child abuse film at that time. This has happened on more than one occasion, when we have carried out the warrant at a specific time and the offender has been caught in the act.
“It is important to realise that downloading and watching indecent images and films is not a victimless crime. This has a huge impact on the young people involved, as well as the families of those offending.”
Anyone with any information about someone they suspect is viewing or downloading indecent images or videos of children is urged to contact Dyfed-Powys Police on 101. If you are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired, text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.
Sentencing of Ian David Croker, Narberth, on Friday, August 18.
A recent POLIT investigation resulted in a man being sentenced to 30 months in prison, just one month after a warrant was carried out at his home.
On Wednesday, July 12, POLIT officers and Pembrokeshire CID carried out a warrant in Stepaside, Narberth. A triage of devices at the scene quickly identified indecent images of children on a laptop belonging to 42-year-old Ian David Croker.
The entire examination and analysis of Croker’s mobile and laptop was completed within 24 hours, revealing there were 275,676 images and 6,220 videos in total. By carrying out an extrapolation of the initial amount of images identified, it was estimated that 42,222 indecent images would potentially be contained on the drive, with a large number being the most severe Category A.
Tenacious work by the Digital Forensic Investigators identified videos on Croker’s phone and laptop, which indicated that he had also been recording males using public toilets in various locations.
CPS advice was obtained and Croker was charged with possessing indecent images of children and voyeurism. On Friday, August 18, 2017, Croker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
DS Davies said: “We welcome this sentence and are pleased the court saw the offence as serious enough to warrant an immediate term of imprisonment. We hope this will reinforce our commitment to eradicate all forms of child abuse and relentlessly pursue those in our communities who perpetrate such acts.”
Calls for return of mental health beds to Ceredigion
PLAID CYMRU AM Simon Thomas has called for the return of mental health beds in Aberystwyth in a response to a consultation by Hywel Dda University Health Board on adult mental health services.
Bronglais Hospital’s mental health Afallon ward in Aberystwyth was closed in 2012.
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Simon Thomas said: “I am particularly concerned at the failure to provide an adequate mental health service in Ceredigion at present. There being no adult hospital or community mental health beds in the county with people having to travel to Carmarthen.
“It seems that there will be no treatment beds between Llanelli and Bangor, a distance of 145 miles.
“This is a failure to deliver for the residents of Hywel Dda or to recognise the travel to work set ups in the region. It is particularly disappointing that the work of the Mid Wales Healthcare Collaborative has not led to a significant improvement in the area of mental health treatment beds.
“I would argue for the reinstatement of beds in Aberystwyth which were removed without consultation or discussion from Afallon Ward in 2012.”
He outlined his party policy and welcomed certain features of the proposals by Hywel Dda University Health Board.
Mid and West AM Simon Thomas added: “Plaid Cymru believes in improving access to trained counsellors and therapists in the community. We also want to ensure every community should have reasonable access to provision of emergency mental health care beds.
“I hope these proposals mean that Hywel Dda University Health Board will take seriously the need to invest in additional therapeutic models of treatment to widen choice and move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment.
“I support the ‘Time to Change’ campaign against prejudice and discrimination towards those with mental health problems. This means that Hywel Dda UHB itself must set a gold standard in ensuring that support services are available for employees with mental health problems.
“I welcome the proposal in the consultation to ensure a 24/7 Community Mental Health Centre in each county with four crisis and recovery beds on site.
“I’m pleased that they will be a place of safety for people detained by the police under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. This will help prevent people in crisis from having to stay in a police cell for assessment.
“The use of centres as a bridge facility for people to go to after as hospital stay and before they go home will be desirable, as is the 24/7 operation with open access meaning fewer delays for people and no waiting lists for referrals.
“I welcome the proposals to develop social enterprises and cooperatives at Community Mental Health Centres but note that this will need investment and resources to be achieved successfully.
“Even under these proposals there will continue to be real issues regarding travel time for people from Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire with the Central Assessment Unit based at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen and the Central Treatment Unit based at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli. This is particularly the case for those reliant on public transport and their families and carers.
“The idea of a Single Point of Contact for people if they want to seek advice or want to make a referral into adult mental health services is a good one. A mix of options to speak to someone on the telephone, via email, or via text would be the best to access the Single Point of Contact.”
The consultation ended last Friday (Sept 15).
Police issue safety advice for new university students
DYFED-POWYS POLICE has issued advice to students who are starting university for the first time and has put together a checklist of security tips.
Superintendent Robyn Mason, head of the Community Safety Support Team, said: “Quite often this is the first time young people have lived away from home. There is so much going on, meeting new people and exploring new places that students often forget about the importance of keeping themselves and their property safe.
“Our universities are set in beautiful areas, so it’s no surprise that they attract students from across the UK and beyond – we want them to enjoy their experience and not fall foul of criminals.
“We also want to safeguard the students from our area who might be moving away for the first time, and help them keep themselves and their property safe while they are away from home.
“One of the most important things to remember is that alcohol can seriously affect your sense of awareness, leading you to take risks. We want students to have fun, but be safe. If you become a victim of crime, or witness a crime taking place, we would urge you to contact 999 in an emergency or 101 if it is a non-urgent matter.”
Uniformed police officers along with PCSOs will carry out regular patrols in areas where there are a high number of student flats and houses. They will also be out to meet students as they arrive in the Dyfed-Powys Police area by being present at freshers’ fairs to provide crime prevention advice, and patrolling busy night spots into the early hours.
Thieves are known to target students and their properties because they know they have rarely lived away from home and might not be as security conscious as they could be.
Students are encouraged to register their equipment at www.immobilise.com. This is a free service which only takes a few minutes to complete, but will assist police in returning stolen equipment to the rightful owner in the case of theft or burglary.
Superintendent Mason concluded: “During the first few days on campus, we advise that you make themselves familiar with the area – pick up a map, bus or train timetable, and save the number of a reliable taxi firm in your phone. Parents can help with this if they are dropping students off at university for the first time.”
Claims Ceredigion Council is clearing Bodlondeb before consultation closes
MEMBERS of the Save Bodlondeb Steering Group have been contacted by relatives of some of the Home’s residents, who have claimed the Council is taking steps to empty the home of residents before the end of the consultation period.
The relatives have reported that Ceredigion Social Services has contacted a number of residents’ families, inviting them to attend assessments of their loved one’s care needs at less than twenty four hours’ notice.
Late afternoon on Thursday, 14 September, a Save Bodlondeb campaigner received a text message from an upset relative.
The relative said a Council official, involved in co-ordinating the consultation process, told them that Bodlondeb would close at the end of September. The relative further said that the official could not tell her where her Mother would be placed.
A representative of the Save Bodlondeb Steering Group contacted a member of the Home’s management team, who declined to comment, saying “I can’t tell you, I’m not even having this conversation with you.”
A spokesperson for the campaign told The Herald: “A more senior Council official would only commit to the Home operating until the end of the consultation period, refusing to comment on any other timescale for its operation and blaming press coverage of the proposed closure for causing residents distress”
The Save Bodlondeb Campaign understands that four residents have been relocated in the past twenty four hours, two are due to be relocated today (Friday) and that assessments are planned and ongoing for the remaining residents.
This unconfirmed information was corroborated by upset relatives who spoke to the picket, formed in response to these revelations, outside Bodlondeb. Relatives spoke of staff and residents alike being in tears by this sudden turn of events.
Commenting on this, Save Bodlondeb campaigner Dinah Mulholland said:
“If this is the case, it is further proof of Ceredigion Council’s arrogant expediency.
“The families are naturally extremely upset and the rumour that the home is to close before the consultation period is over, if proved true, shows once and for all what a sham this consultation is. I have advised the Steering Group to seek legal advice on whether Ceredigion Council’s actions compromise the legality of their consultation process.
“And I say to the Council – do not underestimate the strength of feeling about Bodlondeb and our other publicly owned residential care homes in Ceredigion. We will fight for them all.”
The small Picket, mounted outside Bodlondeb at extremely short notice by Ceredigion People’s Alliance, as part of the Save Bodlondeb Campaign, intends to return each day, to peacefully display ‘Save Bodlondeb’ placards, until this matter is resolved
A spokesperson for Ceredigion County Council responded: ‘We wish to reassure residents, their families and the wider community, that Bodlondeb Residential Care Home is operating as normal.
‘Residents’ needs can and do change and this has been the case in recent weeks for a small number of residents. As part of the on-going care and assessment process any changes in residents’ care needs are regularly reviewed and monitored.
‘As a result there has been a requirement for significant increased staffing support to ensure that residents’ needs are being safely met. This has put extra pressure on the staff group in Bodlondeb. Staffing levels are continuously being reviewed and the appropriate levels of support that residents require is monitored and responded to on a daily basis.
‘We are aware that some residents are considering other registered homes due to their own personal choice and other residents require alternative care provision due to their assessed need. Clearly we will support and ensure that the relevant professionals from within the Council and across partner organisations are available to support the residents and their families on an individual basis.
‘All options are considered and decisions taken in consultation with residents and their families. Where necessary and appropriate Independent Advocates and Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCA) have been commissioned to independently support residents during the assessment and decision making process.
‘Where alternative care options are being actively considered for residents at this time, we have fully engaged and communicated with the families and the IMCA service.
‘Our priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those residing at Bodlondeb and that our staff are supported to deliver the care required in a safe environment. We are extremely grateful to the staff for the dedication they continue to show in delivering care to our residents.
‘The consultation process continues and we encourage all members of the community to engage in this very important activity. As soon as the consultation process ends – on Monday, September 25, 2017 – the responses will need to be evaluated and a report prepared and presented to Cabinet to consider the options and come to a decision’.
A spokesperson for the council said: “Councillor Catherine Hughes, Portfolio Cabinet Member emphasised and reminded everyone that Bodlondeb Residential Care home will remain open as present until such time as the matter is considered and decided upon by the Council’s Cabinet. The Consultation period ends on 25 September 2017. There will follow an evaluation of the consultation responses and thereafter a report will be presented to the Cabinet who will consider the options and only then a decision will be made as to the future of Bodlondeb Residential Care home.”
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