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Ceredigion tradesman sentenced for fraud and supplying unsafe goods

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COLIN HARDING, a model railway layout builder based in Ceredigion has been sentenced to a 6 month custodial sentence, suspended for 15 months, after pleading guilty to fraud and supplying unsafe electrical goods.

Colin Harding, of Pontsian, Ceredigion whose trading names included ‘Model Railway Layouts’, had pleaded guilty to four fraud offences and one safety offence earlier this week at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court. He was also sentenced to 120 hours unpaid work.

The Court heard how Harding had taken payments of over £15,000 from customers as part of his business which he ran from home. He offered a service to design and construct model railway layouts but failed to provide any orders to those customers that he had defrauded. The Court heard that when he did supply a layout to one of the complainants, it was considered so unsafe by an expert electrical engineer who examined it that there would have been a high risk of electrical shock to anyone using it.

Harding gave a range of excuses to his customers for non-completion of work, including debt and other personal problems. His solicitor, told the court that Harding had spent the deposits on general living costs.

District Judge David Parsons noted in his summing up that the persistence of the frauds, the amount of money involved and the continued excuses given to his clients, made these serious offences and therefore the sentence immediately crossed the custody threshold. However, given Harding’s lack of previous convictions he suspended Harding’s six-month sentence for 15 months and ordered Harding to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay compensation of over £4000 to the complainants.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd, Cabinet member with responsibility for Public Protection said: “Dishonest traders need to be aware that persistent offending of this nature is likely to attract harsh penalties. The Ceredigion Public Protection team acts not only to protect consumers from dishonest traders, but also to help maintain trust in the honest traders who are in the majority in Ceredigion’s business community.

“I urge any consumers who believe that they are being defrauded by unscrupulous businesses to report the matter to Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040505 (Welsh language line) or 03454 040506 (English language line). The Public Protection team works in partnership with Citizens Advice and any matter reported will be notified to the relevant local authority.”

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A level results still high in Ceredigion

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THE ‘A’ level examination results published today by the WJEC (15 August) show that high standards are being achieved in Ceredigion schools once again. 97.9% of entries for WJEC examinations were graded A* to E, with 27.9% of the entries achieving the top ’A’ grades.

Ceredigion pupils continue to outperform the Welsh average. More pupils in Ceredigion achieve the top ’A’ grades and A* to E grades. The below table shows a comparison with average Welsh figures. These don’t include Welsh Baccalaureate results and those from examination bodies other than WJEC.

Wales 2019             Ceredigion 2019

Grade A* – A           27.92%                    27.0%

Grade A* – B           56.0%                      n/a

Grade A* – C          77.5%                        n/a

Grade A* – E          97.9%                       97.6%

Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said, “I would like to extend my warmest congratulations once again to Ceredigion’s sixth form students for their successes in this year’s A Level and AS examinations.

These results are the culmination of a long journey through school life which has seen them nurture and develop the academic and interpersonal skills that will enable them to move confidently into higher education, training or employment in fields of their choice. I wish them good luck for the future and would like to sincerely thank all who have contributed to their school journey in any way.”

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New waste trial launched in Aberystwyth

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A NEW trial has been launched in Aberystwyth as part of the Caru Aber campaign, to help keep the town centre clean on waste collection days.

Heavy duty sacks will be placed on Aberystwyth streets on Monday afternoons before the black bag collection on Tuesdays in the following streets; Portland Street, Portland Road, Queen Street, Corporation Street, Eastgate Street, New Street and Cambrian Place.

Black bags should be put in the sacks by 8am on Tuesday mornings for collection. The intention is that the sacks contain the waste until it is collected. The sacks will be retrieved after the waste has been collected to avoid clutter and obstruction on the streets.

Councillor Dafydd Edwards is the Cabinet member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services together with Housing. He said: “We see this trial as a practical and relatively cost effective way of responding to long standing issues relating to domestic waste presentation in Aberystwyth town centre. The sacks will also provide a visible reminder to residents in the town centre on what days to present their black bags.

“The trial forms part of the Caru Aber campaign, and the wider Caru Ceredigion campaign, where the council looks to work with local communities to address issues which are of concern or are important to them.

“This innovative approach is another example of positive proactive action the council is taking. We hope that the residents of the town centre will play their part by making good use of the sacks as this will be the critical factor in measuring the success of the scheme.”

Clean recycling and food waste should continue to be presented on a weekly basis in the containers that the council already provides through clear bags and food caddies.

Ensuring that the right waste is presented in the right way and on the right day will help to make sure that the town’s streets are kept clean and that the waste is contained, managed and treated in the most cost effective and environmentally friendly way as possible.

The sacks were first used in readiness for waste collections on Tuesday 6 August 2019. The initial feedback is positive as they have worked to contain the waste on the streets, which were noticeably cleaner.

This latest initiative is developing on feedback and experience from two other trials undertaken. The success of the trial will be monitored on an ongoing basis and reviewed to reflect the experience which will include looking at ways of engaging all residents.

For more information about the new scheme, please contact the Customer Services Contact Centre on 01545 570 881 or by e-mail on clic@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Jail for illegal dog breeder

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AT Swansea Crown Court on 14 August, Steffan Lee Harries and Barbara Ray Howell were given prison sentences due to a number of serious offences, including animal cruelty. Steffan Lee Harries was sentenced to six months imprisonment with immediate effect; three months of which will be spent in custody and three months on licence depending on behaviour. His partner, Barbara Ray Howell was jailed for four months, suspended for 18 months due to being a young mother and also for having a smaller role in the criminal acts.

In addition, both have been banned from keeping dogs for five years. Harries has been banned from keeping poultry and sheep for five years.

The Crown Court ruling followed a hearing on 17 June 2019 at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court where Harries and Howell pleaded guilty to multiple charges of running a dog breeding business without a license. They also pleaded guilty to animal welfare charges and failures to dispose of animal by-products. They also pleaded guilty to trading standards offences that related to selling dogs as private owners on a website called pre-loved.co.uk.

The charges related to their former home of Waundwni in Tanygroes.

This followed a joint prosecution by Ceredigion County Council and the RSPCA, where the animals under the care of Harries and Howell were found in an appalling state of neglect. The RSPCA, with the assistance of the Police had to force entry into the locked buildings where dogs, chickens, pigs and horses had been left without food and water and no natural daylight.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Finance and Public Protection Services. He said: “This is the first time that Ceredigion County Council and the RSPCA have worked together in a joint prosecution which used the expertise of both organisations and made full use of the court powers available to the council. This conviction should serve as a warning to those that breeding dogs illegally in Ceredigion and the high risks associated with such activity.”

RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper said: “This was an illegal puppy farm where dogs and their puppies were kept in disgusting conditions which fell far below the minimum standard required. Even the working dogs were neglected, with an emaciated collie, lurcher and terrier all found on the premises. The poultry were dead or dying as we walked around and despite calling a vet to the scene, for many it was too late.

“Sadly, this is a sight we see in south and west Wales time and time again – but there is no excuse. All animals must have their needs met and respected.

“We are very pleased to work with Ceredigion County Council to combat this illegal trade and we advise anyone with animal welfare concerns to call us on 0300 1234 999 or with information about unlicensed breeding to call the council.”

The decision was taken to seize the most vulnerable animals, and they were taken into the protective care of the RSPCA. The remaining animals were then cared for carefully by the authorities. 47 dogs and 16 chickens were rescued. Harries also admitted a further animal welfare charge of failing to meet the needs of sheep that he had abandoned on rented land in Rhydlewis.

As well as sentencing the couple, later this year Swansea Crown Court will also be considering a Proceeds of Crime Act application made by Ceredigion County Council for the illegal dog breeding activity.

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