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Timber industry have ‘no confidence’ in NRW

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IN AN unprecedented move ten of Wales’ major timber processors have formally notified the Welsh Government they have no confidence in Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) management of its commercial forestry.

The companies expressing concern include local firms Teifi Timber Projects Ltd and James Davies (Abercych) Ltd.

In a leaked letter, the companies claim that NRW mismanagement of its forestry estate risks 12,000 jobs in the Welsh rural economy; £100m of new investment; Welsh Government revenues; mill closures; and Welsh processing becoming uncompetitive.

The problem is particularly acute as NRW forestry is the principal supplier of the Welsh wood processing industry, providing over 50% of raw material to the companies.

Their principal request is the removal of commercial forestry management from NRW.

NRW ACTIONS INEXPLICABLE

Late last year, a key Assembly Committee concluded that incompetence alone could not explain the actions of NRW in the awarding of a series of multi-million pounds timber contracts to a single logging company, that led to the qualification of NRW’s accounts qualified for three consecutive years.

The Committee stressed it didn’t have enough evidence to reach a full conclusion but said it struggled to comprehend how an organisation led by highly experienced, knowledgeable and skilled individuals could repeatedly make the same mistakes despite previous warnings both by the Assembly and the Wales Audit Office (WAO).

NRW awarded more contracts to the same company without a tendering process even AFTER it was warned off by the WAO.

David Sulman, Executive Director of the UK Forest Products Association told the Committee: “I certainly wouldn’t call these actions mistakes or oversights, as has been claimed. And it seems to us that these actions were premeditated, deliberate, and made in the full knowledge of the facts and the existence of long-standing and well-understood official procedures around timber marketing.

“Talking to people in the industry, some might even go so far as to say that, in view of the very serious concerns that the Auditor General and his staff—and, indeed, this committee had expressed about NRW’s behaviour, their action might amount to almost being contemptuous.”

For Welsh Conservatives enough is enough.

Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary, Andrew RT Davies AM, called for NRW to be scrapped and replaced by two separate bodies; one handling the regulatory duties undertaken by the organisation and the other its commercial aspects.

The scandal has claimed the scalps of former-NRW Chair, Diane McCrea and former Chief Executive Emyr Roberts.

PLAID WANTS INDEPENDENT REVIEW

Responding to the letter, Llyr Gruffydd AM Plaid Cymru shadow minister for environment and rural affairs said: “This letter is a significant development in the ongoing issues surrounding Natural Resources Wales’ handling of its responsibilities over forestry in Wales.

“For the sector to state that it has lost confidence in NRW’s ability to deliver a commercially viable and sustainable service should force the government to consider looking again at whether NRW is the best vehicle to deliver some of these services.

“I am therefore calling on the Welsh Government to establish an independent review to ascertain whether it is still appropriate for NRW to continue to manage the commercial forest estate in Wales. If the inquiry finds that a change is needed then it should offer alternative models for the government to consider. If it concludes NRW is the appropriate body then it must make clear recommendations as to how to improve relations with the sector.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaked correspondence.”

Clare Pillman, chief executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: “We fully accept that we have had some significant issues in our commercial forestry operations.

“We are taking these very seriously and have left no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of these issues, which is why we commissioned independent experts to carry out a thorough review, which will conclude very soon.

“Our relationship with our forestry partners is very important to us and we will be meeting with them in the near future to discuss our plans for improvements.”

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Our responsibility to follow the new Wales coronavirus measures in order to Keep Ceredigion Safe

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The Welsh Government is bringing in new coronavirus measures to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.

To help further prevent the spread of coronavirus, new measures were announced by the First Minister which will come into force at 6pm on Thursday, September 24, 2020:

· Hospitality businesses in Wales will have to close at 10pm and provide table service only.

· All off-licences, including supermarkets, will have to stop selling alcohol at 10pm.

We are also being asked to think carefully about making journeys: only travel where it is essential to do so. The fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are.

The Welsh Government have also introduced the following measures:

· A new £500 payment to support people on low incomes who are asked to self-isolate if they have coronavirus;

· Strengthened regulations to ensure employers support people who need to self-isolate.

The new measures are part of a package of co-ordinated actions to control the spread of coronavirus and it is essential that we all play our part in order to keep Ceredigion safe.

These new measures are to be introduced alongside those that are already in place:

· Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about.

· Wash your hands regularly.

· Wear a mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport

· Only meet 6 people indoors from your extended household (not including children 11 and under).

· Do not meet with more than 30 people outdoors.

· Work from home, wherever possible.

· Think carefully about making journeys: only travel where you need to do so. The fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make, the safer we all are.

We need everyone to follow the rules and guidance and to take the steps to protect them and their loved ones.

Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.

All the latest information and advice regarding the coronavirus can be found on Ceredigion County Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/Coronavirus. The Council’s Corporate Contact Centre number is 01545 570881.

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NHS COVID-19 app launches across Wales

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People are being urged to download the NHS COVID-19 app to help stop the spread of coronavirus and protect themselves and their loved ones as case numbers rise.

The app launches today [Thursday 24] after positive trials and will be a useful tool when used alongside Wales’ successful manual contact tracing system.

It will be available to those aged 16 and over, and forms a central part of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.

The roll-out of the app in Wales coincides with a national campaign around how people in Wales can best support the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme, including only getting a test if they are showing symptoms; self-isolating when required; and working with local contact tracers if they are contacted.

Wales’ contact tracing system – which is a publicly-run service and locally delivered – is working well and has seen a very high contract and trace rate. Latest stats show 94% of cases are being successfully contacted.

The app works by logging the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other.

The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a test if needed and get your test results.

Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“The launch of the NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of Wales’ coronavirus response, supporting the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme. The more people who download and use this app, the more it will help us to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We have worked closely with the app development team to ensure it works seamlessly across Wales and England, providing people with the right advice based on where they live. In Wales, the app will complement our existing contact tracing and testing services and will further support our co-ordinated response to COVID-19 at both a local and national level.

“I strongly encourage everyone in Wales to download and use the app to keep Wales safe.”

The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus, not people and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy. The system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth. These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity.

The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed.

Today the UK’s major mobile network operators, including Vodafone, Three, EE and O2, Sky and Virgin, have confirmed that all in-app activity will not come out of customers’ data allowance.

In a joint statement Apple and Google said:

“We built the exposure notifications system to enable public health authorities in their efforts to develop apps to help reduce the spread of the virus while ensuring people can trust in the privacy-preserving design. We are committed to supporting the government’s effort to launch an app based on this technology.”

Whilst the app will be a major support for the contact tracing system, Welsh residents are being reminded to continue to keep Wales safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by:

• Always keeping a distance
• Washing hands regularly
• Working from home wherever possible
• Following local restrictions
• Following the rules about meeting people
• Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

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Man jailed for revenge porn against teenage ex-girlfriend

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A ‘PREDATORY OFFENDER’ who targeted young girls online and shared indecent images of them on pornographic websites has been jailed for more than two years.

Robin Edwards Jones, formerly of Lampeter, came to police attention after tracking down his former girlfriend – a teenager 26 years his junior – and sending a threatening email containing indecent images of her to her boss a year after their relationship ended.

The 48-year-old then uploaded hundreds of images of the then 17-year-old to pornographic websites, creating a personal bio for each site that allowed her to be identified through her Facebook account.

Jones has been jailed following a two-year investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police, which saw the force’s digital crime unit prove he had supplied the websites with these images.

Officer in case Detective Sergeant Steve Barry said: “This was a thorough investigation into what has become known as revenge porn.

“Two other police forces were initially involved in the investigation before passing it to Dyfed Powys Police, and our investigation spanned two years, with the safeguarding of the teenage victim at its heart.

“What we were faced with initially was a suspect who was alleged to have circulated indecent images of a teenage girl with the intent of causing her distress following the break-up of a six month relationship.

“As the investigation progressed, it transpired that Jones was a predatory offender, targeting young children online to obtain indecent images of them for his sexual gratification and desire to control them.”

The offender and victim met online in November 2015, when Jones claimed he was 28 years old in an attempt to instigate a relationship with a teenage girl.

Over the following six months, the victim sent a number of indecent images of herself to the offender on his request. He also created his own images from intimate video chats, increasing the library of images for his use.

The relationship ended in April 2016 when the teenager’s father became aware of the situation and notified the police.

There was no contact between the pair for 12 months after they separated.

DS Barry said: “It wasn’t until the following April when the victim started a new job, that Jones tracked her down and began his campaign against her.

“He set up an email account under a false name and sent the victim’s employer eight indecent images that she had taken during their relationship in a bid to get her fired from her job.

“Around the same time, the victim received a message asking if she was aware that these photos had been uploaded to a pornographic website – for a young girl, this was extremely traumatic.”

Enquiries linked the email account to Jones’s home address, and a warrant was carried out with the support of Dyfed-Powys Police’s Digital Communications and Cybercrime Unit.

A number of digital devices were seized and the suspect was interviewed in relation to the offences, strongly denying any wrongdoing – a position he maintained throughout the investigation.

“In the meantime, the victim received two messages on Facebook asking if images on another website were of her,” DS Barry said.

“She believed it was Jones further taunting her, but enquires revealed it was a man who had identified her through a false profile and hoped to start a sexual relationship.

“Applications were made to the sites to ensure these images were removed swiftly, to prevent further distress to the victim.”

As digital investigators analysed a computer belonging to Jones, they discovered he was also in contact with a 14-year-old American girl, with sexual messages exchanged between the pair.

“Evidence from the computers seized showed that Jones began his relationship with a girl in the US when she was just 12 years old,” DS Barry said.

“Contact was made through Interpol, but she and her family were unwilling to support our investigation.”

As the investigation was completed, officers found that Jones had more than 500 indecent images of the victims – 52 of which were the most serious classification – and that he had shared 162 private photos without consent of the victims.

He was charged with two counts of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress; two counts of possessing indecent photographs of a child; and three counts of distributing indecent images of a child – with images spanning classes A, B and C.

Even with the weight of evidence against him, Jones maintained his innocence and opted for trial, however he admitted the offences on the day the trial began at Swansea Crown Court.

On September 17, he was sentenced to 27 months in prison. He must also register as a sex offender for 10 years, and was given a restraining order against contacting the victim.

DS Barry said: “This conviction was as a result of a team effort between forces and departments, but the effort and dedication from the digital cybercrime unit was outstanding and should be particularly commended.”

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