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.”
Restaurant owner fined over £3000 for ‘significant rodent infestation’
THE FORMER proprietor of a restaurant which had a ‘significant rodent infestation’ pleaded guilty to ten food hygiene offences at Aberystwyth Justice Centre on Monday (Jun 18).
Mr Rysul Asad of Gloster Row, Cardigan, and the former proprietor of Gulshan, Chancery Lane, Cardigan, has appeared before Magistrates.
Four offences related to the presence of a significant rodent infestation at the restaurant, which was under Mr Asad’s control at the time. A further five offences related to the poor standards of cleaning found during the investigation.
Emergency action was taken by Ceredigion County Council Environmental Health Officers in September 2017 following the discovery of an active rodent infestation at the premises, and resulted in the immediate closure of the food business.
Rodent activity, including the presence of droppings, entry points and gnawing, was discovered within food preparation and food storage areas of the premises. Furthermore, Officers also discovered dirty equipment and very poor standards of cleaning.
Rodents carry a number of dangerous microorganisms and pose a significant risk to human health. These can include Salmonellosis, Escherichia coli (E.coli), Hantavirus and Weil’s disease.
The presence of rodents within a food premises can transmit these diseases via contaminated surfaces, equipment and the food itself, to such an extent that it is regarded as an imminent risk to health.
Cabinet Member for Public Protection Services Councillor Gareth Lloyd said: “Food hygiene inspections, and Food Hygiene Ratings shown on the doors of the majority of food businesses in Ceredigion, gives reassurance to the public who live, work and visit the county that the food they eat is safe and has been prepared hygienically. However, on rare occasions the Council must take action to protect public health and the reputation of our excellent hospitality industry who work hard to maintain standards.”
Mr Asad also pleaded guilty to a further offence of failing to register his new food business, namely Shatun Sharha Limited trading as Shampan the Boat Restaurant and Takeaway, River Teifi, Quay Street, Lower Mwldan, Cardigan, for which he is now the proprietor. Mr Asad failed to notify the Commercial Services Team at Ceredigion County Council of this change following his departure from Gulshan in November 2017.
Councillor Lloyd added: “Cases like this underline the importance of the work of our food and safety team and the value of our inspection programme. The food safety team works hard with local businesses to meet and maintain legal food hygiene standards to ensure the best hygiene safety in our county.”
The Magistrates imposed a total financial penalty of £3,107 on Mr Asad for the offences. This included Council costs and victim surcharge.
3,000 Welsh landlords still unregistered
JANET FINCH-SAUNDERS AM has called on the Welsh Government to urgently work to improve landlord registration under Rent Smart Wales, as estimates released indicate around 3,000 remain unregistered.
Ms Finch-Saunders said: “Rent Smart Wales estimates that still 3,000 landlords are unregistered here in Wales.
“Whilst that makes up a small percentage of our total landlords, it is most concerning for those living in properties leased to them by those who have not yet registered.
“The Welsh Government has confirmed that a landlord who is not registered with Rent Smart Wales is unable to serve a valid Section 21 eviction notice – so where unregistered landlords do indicate that they want tenants to vacate a property, this is not recognised by local housing associations, which can cause stress to tenants who may not be aware of their full rights under the law.
“By focusing on ensuring that all landlords are properly registered, the Welsh Government can alleviate such concerns, and I will be urging the Cabinet Secretary to act to ensure all landlords are abiding by this legislation in full.”
The Minister for Housing and Regeneration told Ms Finch-Saunders that the latest figures released by Rent Smart Wales show that 90,812 landlords are now registered. Rent Smart Wales’ latest estimate for the number of unregistered landlords is approximately 3,000.
This is based on the dwelling stock estimates recently published by StatsWales, and an estimation of the average number of properties owned by each landlord.
Public urged to enjoy dolphin sightings at a distance
WITH summer on the way, bringing visitors enjoying Ceredigion’s wildlife rich coastline, the Council is urging members of the public to enjoy coastal activities without disturbing Cardigan Bay’s special wildlife and habitats. The call comes after individuals recently approached and swam with dolphins in Cardigan Bay.
The Ceredigion Marine Code of Conduct asks water users to stay 100 metres away from dolphins and porpoises encountered at sea, and to keep a distance of 50 metres from seals and nesting sea birds.
In no circumstances should the public attempt to feed, swim with or touch the dolphins. These are wild animals. Dolphins are large and powerful and can grow up to four metres long. As well as causing significant disturbance to the animals and pushing them off important feeding sites, close contact can also result in exposure to diseases to both humans and animals.
Repeated disturbance could cause the dolphins to leave important feeding sites to search for quieter areas.
Disruption to feeding, resting and nursing behaviour could have a long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of individual dolphins and populations.
The Cabinet member responsible for Economy and Regeneration, Councillor Rhodri Evans said: “Cardigan Bay’s wildlife is a great asset to the economy of our coastal communities and is also important in its own right. It is because of this that we ask residents and visitors to enjoy dolphin, and other wildlife sightings at a safe distance. Although the temptation to have a close-up view is understandable, we can’t risk disturbing Cardigan Bay’s wildlife and possibly driving them away. It’s the last thing anyone wants.”
The Ceredigion Marine Code of Conduct was established by Ceredigion County Council over twenty years ago, in response to local community concerns that the bottlenose dolphins that use these waters to feed, socialise and breed were experiencing greater pressures from disturbance by those enjoying recreational water-based activities.
The Ceredigion Marine Code of Conduct can be found online on http://www.cardiganbaysac.org.uk/?page_id=583
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