POLICE officers give their all to protect their communities – running towards danger as others run away, supporting victims and families in their darkest hours, and seeing unimaginable scenes.
But who is there for the protectors when they need back-up?
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Dyfed-Powys Police is sharing an insight into a previously unseen side of the force – the work the counselling service carries out in guiding officers and staff through their own struggles.
From officers painstakingly combing crime scenes for vital evidence, and investigators trawling through thousands of images on digital devices, to colleagues balancing the pressure between work and home life, Counsellor Samantha Davies and a team of 13 others around the force are there to offer guidance and support.
And Samantha explained the service is often most needed when officers least expect it.
“We often see officers who have got 20 or 30 years’ experience and don’t understand why an incident has affected them,” she said.
“Say you have an officer who has dealt with atrocities for 30-plus years, and suddenly they find themselves crying over something small. They think they’ve gone mad.
“Of course they haven’t – it’s the weight of what they’ve dealt with over the course of their career.
“It usually goes that they say they’ve dealt with worse things, they’ve seen worse things, and they don’t understand why this particular incident has bothered them.
“We work closely with them to find the trigger. It might be something in their past that they haven’t dealt with, there might be similarities with this job, or this latest incident is simply the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
While there are formal mechanisms in place to support officers who have dealt with traumatic incidents – being the first on scene at a murder, a sudden death, or a fatal collision, for example – the need for the counselling team might come from wider impacts of the job.
The challenges of dealing with a long term investigation, months spent in exposed conditions looking for evidence, or long night shifts guarding scenes of crime to ensure evidence isn’t lost can take their toll.
As part of her role, Samantha ensures she is readily available to officers working in difficult conditions – visiting investigation sites regularly to offer support.
“It’s not always the things they’ve seen – it can be problems at home, or the pressure of being away from home for weeks on end,” she said.
“One of the biggest things we see in the counselling room is guilt. We help officers to work through this, and give them the tools to help themselves.
“With the ongoing operation in Carmarthen, before the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, I was making sure I was on site twice a week, every week, with the force chaplain and our in-house Occupational Health Specialist team so they could see we were there if they needed us,” she said.
“Being on a site day in day out isn’t easy – if we can be there for a chat in the canteen, help clear the plates away, then officers get to know what we can offer, and are more likely to get in touch if they do need support.
“They might not need us during that particular investigation – it might be months or years down the line – but by meeting us at that time, they know we’re here.”
While Samantha sometimes faces reluctance from officers in accepting that they need a counselling session, she is able to strip away layers of bravado from those saving face from their colleagues.
“You do get a bit of banter between some officers – particularly when we carry out specialist unit reviews,” she said. “They’ll be in the waiting room making jokes about it, but when they come in, it changes.
“They might be worried that their line manager has to know they’ve had a session, or that I could take their firearms license away, for example, but that’s not what I’m here for. Once they realise what we’re about – that we’re not candles and whale music – they start to open up about things.
Nearly a year into her position at Dyfed-Powys Police, Samantha is realising a career dream stemming from her childhood, growing up in a policing family.
“My dad was an officer for 30 years,” she said. “When I was young, he used to tell me lots of gory stories, which I loved, and they gave me an insight and understanding into what they face.
“While he told me what he’d seen, he would never tell my mum. She didn’t work for the force, and he didn’t want to burden her with the things he had seen – that’s still true of officers today. They carry the weight of what they have seen and heard on shift, and often have nobody to offload to.
“He fully supported me when I said I wanted to be a counsellor. He was old fashioned, and would say in front of others that people need to pull their socks up, but quietly he would sit with me and say that things had changed since he left the job. They used to go to the pub and talk things through – he knew that didn’t happen anymore, and that people need somewhere to talk.
“I absolutely love my role. When someone says they wouldn’t have got through something without support, it absolutely humbles me. It brings me to tears.”
Wales’ first law department celebrates 120 years at Old Bailey
Wales’ oldest university law department has marked its 120th anniversary with a celebratory event at London’s top criminal court.
Law has been taught at Aberystwyth University since 1901, and in the 120 years that have followed more than 9,000 students from almost one hundred countries have graduated and launched their careers from the department.
The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales provided an illustrious setting for the first of two prestigious events held to mark the 120th anniversary of the longest-established law department in the country.
Alumni of the department include several Ministers of State, politicians and leaders, many who have gone on to develop distinguished legal careers, and those who have achieved success in other professions.
Held at the ‘Old Bailey’ in London, the celebratory event was attended by alumni, staff students and other special guests, including Ceredigion MP Ben Lake. The Guest Speaker was The Rt Hon Lord David Lloyd-Jones FLSW, Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth University.
The special anniversary will be celebrated at a second event to be held at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in Cardiff on the evening of Friday 10 June. Alumni wishing to attend can find more information on the University website: www.aber.ac.uk/en/development/newsandevents/law-anniversary-dinners
Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, The Rt Hon. Lord Thomas of Cwmgïedd, said: “The history of the teaching of law at Aberystwyth is an inspiring story of dogged determination by a small number of indomitable individuals who laid the foundation for the highly-respected department you see today. In 1899 when it became clear that there was widespread support for the ambition to establish a law department in Wales to provide a broad education in legal principles, funding was raised through the generosity of members of the Bar circuits of north and south Wales, and amongst London Welshmen, with many firms of solicitors and individuals making contributions and pledging recurrent annual support.”
Professor Emyr Lewis, Head of Aberystwyth University’s Department of Law and Criminology said: “From its embryonic foundations at the beginning of the twentieth century, the teaching of law at Aberystwyth has flourished. Today, as well as excellent teaching which has always been a hallmark of the Aberystwyth approach, the department offers numerous opportunities for students to develop practical skills and hands-on experience.
Students have the chance to undertake casework in our Family Law Clinic, acquire and practise advocacy skills through our Mooting Society, volunteer with ground-breaking research projects such as Dewis/Choice and the Veterans Legal Link Project, and benefit from our new Law in Practice modules which are designed to begin filling the gap between the traditional core knowledge gained through a law degree and practice.”
Louise Jagger, Aberystwyth University’s Director of Development and Alumni Relations, said: “The long tradition of philanthropic giving at Aberystwyth University continues to this day and was also celebrated and promoted at the dinner. Over recent years we have embarked on our largest ever philanthropic campaign to transform the iconic Old College into a major cultural and creative centre for Wales to mark the University’s 150th anniversary.
“Part of our plans for the Old College include a Law Room and Moot Court to honour and celebrate the rich contribution that the Law department has made to the University through the provision of a space for public engagement and for enhancing the public understanding of the law. The facility will provide a dedicated venue and resource centre for Moots, the Law Society, debates, seminars, exhibitions, public lectures and alumni gatherings. Students past, present and future will benefit from this excellent facility. We are grateful to the alumni and friends who have already donated towards this goal and will be inviting further contributions right up until the reopening of Old College in 2024.”
Professor Tim Woods, Aberystwyth University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience, said: “It is a pleasure to join alumni and friends from across the country to celebrate the Department of Law and Criminology’s contribution to Aberystwyth University and its impact on the world over the past 120 years.
“The University itself is celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year, and we look forward to reuniting with alumni and supporters at celebratory events in Cardiff, Aberystwyth and London over the coming year to mark this important milestone.”
Aberystwyth University was awarded University of the Year for teaching quality and student experience (Good University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times 2021) and also University of the Year for teaching quality two years consecutively, and Welsh University of the Year (Good University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times 2020).
New owners at Cenarth Falls Holiday Park in Newcastle Emlyn
SAVILLS, on behalf of a private client, has completed the sale of Cenarth Falls Holiday Park in Cenarth, Newcastle Emlyn, Wales, to Boutique Resorts Ltd for an undisclosed sum.
The holiday park is set on an attractively landscaped site extending approximately 11.52 acres (4.66 ha) which includes 1.92 acres of woodland. The holiday park has planning permission for 89 static caravan pitches and 30 mixed touring caravan pitches. At the entrance of the park there is a reception, sales office and games room. The property also provides a high quality fitness, hospitality and entertaining space including indoor swimming pool, gym, bar and function room licensed for a maximum of 290 guests, and owner’s accommodation comprising a three bedroom bungalow and adjoining two bedroom cottage.
Cenarth Falls Holiday Park is situated within the historic and picturesque village of Cenarth, Ceredigion, bordering Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. The village is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which attracts numerous visitors to the area. The River Teifi is renowned for excellent salmon and sea trout (sewin) fishing and the town of Cardigan is 10 minutes away with an array of shops and amenities. There are numerous sandy beaches nearby and many other activities on offer in the locality including walking, golf and water sports such as kayaking.
Richard Prestwich, Director in the Leisure and Trade Related team at Savills, says: “It has been a privilege to sell such a good quality holiday park, nurtured to its 5 star status over a 34 year period by the former family owner. The new owners are no strangers to high quality holiday businesses being an award winning holiday brand and they will look to improve the quality of the business further to complement their other holiday parks, with the nearest being Fishguard Bay Holiday Park.”
Japan looking at the revival of Welsh for help with the endangered Okinawan language
ONE of the biggest selling newspapers in Japan has urged one of the country’s languages to take inspiration from Welsh in its efforts to revive its fortunes.
The Okinawan language, spoken on one of the islands of the nation’s southern tip, has been the subject of a warning by UNESCO that it is in danger of disappearing.
In its front-page editorial column, the Asahi Shimbun, one of the four largest newspapers in Japan which a circulation of some 5m copies, said that those seeking to revitalise the language could take inspiration from the Welsh language.
It notes that children who spoke Okinawan in classrooms in the 19th century were punished by being forced to wear a ‘hogen fuda’ (dialect tag) – similar to the Welsh Not in some schools in Wales.
The kingdom within which the language was spoken was also forcefully annexed from without, and from then on “offered no benefits with regard to receiving a higher education or seeking employment”.
The column says that the story of Okinawan was a “reminder of how the Welsh language was rehabilitated”.
“In the 16th century, Wales was incorporated into the Kingdom of England. Its language, overpowered by English, was banned,” it said in its editorial.
“It was not until the 20th century that the Welsh language started being used again in education. TV channels that broadcast in Welsh were launched, and it acquired the official language status 11 years ago.
“It was an achievement made possible by Welsh people placing pride in, and passion for, their homeland.
“Let us hope that such a rich language will continue flourishing forever.”
The Okinawan has an estimated 2,000 speakers remaining today. Like Welsh, it has also gained an unexpected foothold in South America, where it is spoken by communities of Okinawan immigrants in Brazil, where there was no historical prohibition on its use.
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