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Positive results for online policing team in five months

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Investigation: The team in action

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.”

A crucial step: Devices hold evidence for the cases

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.”

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New Quay RNLI in top ten for fundraising in the UK & Ireland

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Last week, as the RNLI’s Mayday Mile campaign came to an end, the New Quay RNLI team had earned the honour of being in the top ten for fundraising throughout the UK & Ireland. The team raised over £3,000 during the month of May, with local schools, individuals and the RNLI crew taking part. 

Both Ysgol Ceinewydd and Ysgol T Llew Jones pupils took on the challenge, taking to the school field to complete their Mayday Mile and then learning about water safety back in the classroom. 

Mr Lee Burrows, Deputy Headteacher of Ysgol T Llew Jones, said, “We wanted to take part in the RNLI Mayday Mile campaign as we wanted to raise awareness of the dangers in and around the water before the summer months. It’s really important for our pupils to remember water safety messages as we live by the sea. 

“We were able to use the RNLI water safety resources which are online and the children had great fun making water safety posters.”  

A local boy, Steffan Williams, aged 12, was another participant who raised over £2,200 by paddle boarding 10 miles in one day and is fourth on the individuals’ leaderboard for the whole of the UK and Ireland. 

New Quay lifeboat crew also took part, with crew members running and walking across Traeth Gwyn in full RNLI kit. It was tough going but they covered a total of 20 miles. Crew member Peter Yates took the challenge one step further, walking a total of 68 miles during the month of May.  

Pete said, “Having been on the crew for 14 years and having been taught so much and been given such great opportunities, I wanted to do my bit and give something back. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me and the rest of the team.” 

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI Operations Manager added, “We would like to thank everyone for their kind donations and also those who have taken part in the fundraising activities. The Mayday Mile campaign has been a great success and it’s great to see the community pulling together to raise much needed funds for the RNLI. With more people expected to be holidaying close to home this year, the RNLI predicts a summer like no other.” 

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New Quay RNLI rescues three persons blown out to sea

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ON THURSDAY afternoon (Jun 10) at 3pm New Quay RNLI’s inshore lifeboat launched on service to rescue three persons being blown out to sea on inflatable rings off Traeth Gwyn beach. 

In a strong offshore wind, the crew at New Quay Lifeboat Station had spotted three persons on inflatable rings in difficulty.   

Pete Yates, New Quay RNLI’s helm said, “We spotted the group about a quarter mile out from the beach so we observed them for a while. Initially they abandoned one of the rings and were making good speed back to the beach. All seemed okay, but then the group of three, each in a rubber ring started to slow, with one adult beginning to attempt a swim tow with the other two.  

“At that point I could tell they were in real danger so I went to prepare the inshore lifeboat. Once kitted up we launched and quickly arrived on scene. One person had made it ashore but the adult was still towing a young person who was quite shivery and cold. We got them both aboard and took them back to the beach to their family. I’d say they were a little shaken up and it was a very good decision to observe them and then launch, so a good outcome!” 

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager added, “Many of the emergencies the RNLI responds to involve inflatables and that is a key reason why the RNLI strongly advises against taking them to the beach. Inflatables are not designed for open water and it takes very little breeze for them to be swept out to sea much quicker than you can swim or paddle back to the beach.  

“Remember if you get into danger in the water, relax and float to give yourself time to recover before swimming to safety or calling for help. If you see someone else in danger, please call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” 

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Surprise interview with football superstar on Euros’ eve

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ON Thursday morning 10 June, pupils from Ysgol Gynradd Penrhyn-coch and Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig received an unexpected Zoom call all the way from Baku, capital city of Azerbaijan. The call was made from Ben Davies, Welsh professional footballer, who is currently located at a camp with the rest of the Welsh national football team in Baku, ahead of their Euro 2020 opener game against Switzerland on Saturday.

After the initial shock of seeing the live image of Ben appear on the screen in front of them, Pupils from Year 3 to Year 6 of Ysgol Penrhyn-coch and Year 7 puplis of Ysgol Penweddig were given the opportunity to interview Ben. The interview, which was organised as part of the Ceredigion Welsh Language Charter, was conducted through the medium of Welsh.

It was clear from the big grins that all the pupils enjoyed this special experience considerably and one that will be well remembered. The passion from the children was an indicator of the strong support there is for Ben and the rest of the Welsh team in Ceredigion.

Puplis wearing red from Ysgol Gynradd Penrhyn-coch, after interviewing Ben Davies.

None of the pupils knew about the interview beforehand. The only clue given by the schools that something was happening was that pupils were all told to wear red to school on Thursday.

Liwsi Curley, a pupil of Ysgol Penrhyn-coch said: “I’m in shock to see one of my heroes live on zoom! It’s been a special experience and one of the happiest experiences of my life. Thank you very much Ben Davies. Go for it Wales!” 

Ben answered many of the puplis questions. Twm Aron Williams and Caio Brychan, puplis of Ysgol Penrhyncoch, who are big fans of Ben were two of those lucky pupils. Caio asked Ben: “If you could choose a five-a-side football fantasy team who would be in it?” After answering, Ben asked the same question back to Caio, who answered immediately with: “You and then Bale, Ramsey, Moore and Henesey!”

Dr Rhodri Thomas, Headteacher of Ysgol Penweddig said: It was pleasing to see the response of year 7 pupils to the session with Ben Davies today. The pupils appreciated the opportunity to find out more about the experience of representing your country and the importance of practising, hard work and following advice from others in order to succeed. Year 7 pupils are excited now and look forward to supporting Wales in the competition over the next few weeks. Good luck to the team in Rome and Baku!”

Zoom call between Ceredigion pupils and Ben Davies.

Finley Saycell, a Year 7 pupil of Ysgol Penweddig said: “Today’s experience was a special one. I thank everyone who had given us the opportunity. It was excellent. I spoke to Ben Davies – one of Wales’s best players!”

Ben Davies has won over 50 caps for Wales and previously played in the Euros in 2016. Welsh-born Ben attended Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot.

Following the interview, Ben Davies said: “It was lovely to speak to the children and see the support that there is for us – WOW!”

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