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Social media used to groom children young as six

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CHILDREN as young as six in Wales have been targeted across an array of online platforms in the first year following the introduction of anti-grooming laws.

A law of Sexual Communication with a Child came into effect in England and Wales on April 3, 2017, after an NSPCC campaign, and in the first year a total of 3,171 crimes were recorded by police forces – amounting to nine grooming offences per day.

A total of 274 offences were recorded across the four Welsh police forces in the same period.

More than half of the offences in Wales were logged by South Wales Police (158) with 53 in North Wales and 44 in the Gwent force area.

Dyfed-Powys Police supplied data for the period between October 2017 and April 2018 when 19 offences were recorded.

In Wales, grooming offences were recorded on 23 different platforms, with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat comprising the top three most-commonly used with more than 120 taking place using those platforms alone.

Ninety-one crimes were reported in Wales against boys and girls aged between 12 and 15, while 56 offences were recorded against children aged 11 and under. The youngest victim recorded was just six years old.

Following the NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign, the UK Government’s digital secretary Matt Hancock announced that laws will be brought in to regulate social networks, to keep children safe and prevent harms such as grooming.

The charity is now campaigning to ensure those laws are sufficiently robust to prevent grooming and to truly keep children safe.

It is calling on Government Create mandatory safety rules that social networks are legally required to follow; Establish an independent regulator to enforce safety laws and fine non-compliant sites; Require social media sites to publish annual safety reports; Force platforms to develop technology to detect grooming using algorithms.

It comes ahead of the charity’s annual flagship conference How Safe Are Our Children? which begins on Wednesday June 20 in London and has the theme Growing Up Online.

Contact offences such as rape and sexual assault were among those recorded in connection with grooming offences.

Mared Parry, from North Wales, was sent sexual messages from men 10 years older than her on Facebook when she was aged just 14.

Mared, who has waived her right to anonymity, was groomed to send semi-naked pictures to them.

She said: “At the beginning it was messages like ‘Hey, how are you?’ But as the weeks went on, they started sending messages that were more and more sexual. It was so subtle; that’s why it is so easy for an online chat to slip into being so wrong.

“If I didn’t reply or speak the way they wanted me to, then they would say: ‘You’re just too immature for me’. They were so manipulative, but you don’t even notice it.

“Looking back at it now, it’s scary to think that I sent semi-naked pictures to older guys. It could have gone a lot further.”

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “These numbers are far higher than we had predicted, and every single sexual message from an adult to a child can have a huge impact for years to come.

“Social networks have been self-regulated for a decade and it’s absolutely clear that children have been harmed as a result.

“I urge digital secretary Matt Hancock to follow through on his promise and introduce safety rules backed up in law and enforced by an independent regulator with fining powers.

“Social networks must be forced to design extra protections for children into their platforms, including algorithms to detect grooming to prevent abuse from escalating.”

In Wales, NSPCC Cymru has called for the Welsh Government to co-ordinate and progress efforts to keep children as safe in their online worlds as they are offline.

Last year, Welsh Government announced plans to produce a children and young persons’ online safety action plan.

The NSPCC hopes it will deliver practical help and support for schools, parents and others in Wales involved in child protection online when it is published.

How Safe Are Our Children? takes place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, in Westminster, London on June 20-21.

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Teenage passenger dies in A487 crash – police appealing for help

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DYFED POWYS POLICE are appealing for witnesses following a fatal collision which occurred at around 10pm last night (Saturday, November 16) on the A487 at Commins Coch, Aberystwyth.

The collision involved two vehicles – a black Vauxhall Astra, which was travelling out of Aberystwyth heading towards the general direction of Bow Street, and a silver Audi A6.

Sadly, an 18-year-old sustained fatal injuries and passed away at hospital this morning. She was a passenger in the Vauxhall Astra.

Several casualties were also taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Anyone travelling along this stretch of road at the time of the collision who had dash cam footage, or saw the collision or the vehicles involved, is asked to contact the Serious Collision Investigation Unit.

You can report information online at: http://bit.ly/dppReportOnline, by email at: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20191116-353

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Free parking in Ceredigion

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Car parking will be free in all Ceredigion County Council operated Pay and Display car parks on the three Saturdays before Christmas this year.

Parking charges at council operated Pay and Display car parks will be waived on December 7, 14 and 21 2019.

Rhodri Llwyd is Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer responsible for Highways and Environmental Services. He said. “Small businesses will be competing against online businesses for trade this Christmas. We want to do what we can to support Ceredigion businesses at this important time of year. We hope this step encourages more of us to shop locally this Christmas and enjoy what fantastic Ceredigion businesses have to offer.”

This decision contributes towards one of the council’s corporate priorities of boosting the economy.

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Ysgol Bro Pedr raise funds for life saving machine

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PUPILS at Ysgol Bro Pedr have raised enough money to buy a defibrillator machine for the school.

The idea came after 15 Year 11 pupils achieved their Level 3 Emergency First Aid Qualification with Ceredigion Youth Service. Pupils felt that it was incredibly important that they and others at the school had the skills, knowledge and equipment to use in an emergency.

Mrs Caryl Jones and pupils raised an outstanding £1,150 through organising a bake sale at the school on 28 March 2019. The school extends their thanks to Lampeter businesses ‘Oh My Cod’ and ‘Y Becws’ for their kind contribution towards the sale.

Guto Crompton, School Based Youth Worker said: “Although first aid is not a mandatory part of the school curriculum in Wales, young people at Ysgol Bro Pedr felt that it should be something that all pupils knew about. This would help them to know what to do in an emergency, whether that be in the school or out in the community. Pupils worked hard to achieve their First Aid qualification which covered aspect such as CPR, casualty management and the use of a defibrillator.”

The defibrillator machine will be placed in the school reception.

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