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Carmarthenshire

Swansea announce ALL schools move to blended learning from Monday. Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire offer primary’s choice of closure.

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All schools in Swansea will move to blended learning from Monday following the latest Welsh Government advice.

But they will remain open until December 18 for pupils up to and including Year 8 whose parents or carers are key workers and for vulnerable learners should they wish to attend.

Primary and secondary schools will be providing online teaching for pupils who are home and arrangements will be in place to ensure that those that qualify for a free school meal receive a payment or food bag as soon as possible.

The Welsh Government said while schools remain safe and secure environments general coronavirus rates in Wales were increasing daily.

Parents are being urged to ensure that children not in school stay at home and minimise contact with others.

Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart said: “Our schools have done an outstanding job in keeping education going this term while also ensuring that the school environment is as safe as it possibly can be.

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“Throughout the pandemic we have closely followed Welsh Government and public health advice and we always said that we were keeping the situation under constant review.

“What is now absolutely vitally important is that children not in school do not go out meeting up with groups of friends but stay at home and minimise contact.

“Swansea already has one of the highest coronavirus rates in Wales and if young people are out and mixing freely it will only make matters worse.”

Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Learning and Skills, Jennifer Raynor added: “I would again like to place on record my sincere gratitude to headteachers in Swansea and their staff for keeping schools running safely and securely throughout this incredibly difficult year.

“They are keeping schools open again next week for children’s whose parents are key workers so that vital services are not impacted.”

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The announcement follow’s last night’s Welsh Government Education Minister, Kirsty Williams’s decision for Secondary schools in Wales to move to online learning from Monday, December 14 as part of a ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus’

Council leaders in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are also allowing schools across the region to move to distance learning in the run-up to Christmas.

Carmarthenshire County Council is allowing all primary and special schools the choice to move to distance learning or remain open from Tuesday, December 15. In Ceredigion all primary and special schools will move to distance learning from Tuesday, December 15. In Pembrokeshire, all primary schools will move to distance learning from Tuesday, December 15.

Families with children eligible for free school meals will receive payment to cover the days they are learning from home.

Carmarthenshire County Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “We are extremely concerned about how quickly the virus is spreading in our communities, and unfortunately this is having a significant impact on our schools.

“We have already seen some schools having to close, not because coronavirus is circulating there but because so many staff are having to self-isolate.

“Our schools have worked hard to provide a safe environment; the problem is not in our schools but in the community, where people are mixing with each other causing the virus to spread easily.

“This hasn’t been an easy decision, but we want to make sure pupils and staff can enjoy Christmas with their families. I cannot emphasise enough though how important it is that pupils stay at home and carry on with the work set by their teachers and do not mix with other households, otherwise all this will be for nothing, and the virus will continue to spread exponentially.”

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Ceredigion County Council Leader Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn said “We all recognise the hard work of school staff during the year and in meeting the challenges that the coronavirus has brought, whilst at the same time continuing to deliver high quality teaching, face to face or remotely. We also recognise that our pupils have had to adapt to the new ways of working.

“However, now is the time to ensure the health and safety of our pupils and staff in the lead up to Christmas and closing schools for face to face teaching will enable families to limit contact with people they do not live with leading up to Christmas. The risk of catching coronavirus is reduced when we limit how much contact we have with others – these days will give families that opportunity so that they can see loved ones over the festive period.”

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson said: “This has been a difficult decision to take but one that we hope parents and carers can understand. Coronavirus is spreading across our communities and we see the impact every day with increasing numbers of classes and year groups having to self-isolate.

“It is important to emphasise that this is not an extended Christmas holiday. Pupils should not be mixing with other households – just like adults should not be mixing with other households.

“It’s up to all of us to do our bit to fight coronavirus.”

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Books & Literature

Carmarthenshire author’s Carmarthen Crime series hits the bookshelves

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Ferryside author John Nicholl is celebrating the re-release of his Carmarthenshire-based detective books as the Carmarthen Crime Series.

His new publisher, Boldwood Books – winner of Publisher of the Year in the 2022 Independent Publishing Awards – has repackaged the four books with a strong emphasis on the Carmarthenshire setting and covers depicting local locations including Carmarthen, Dryslwyn Castle and the Tywi Estuary.

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The first two books, The Carmarthen Murders and The Tywi Estuary Killings, are on sale now, with the other two – The Castle Beach Murders and The Dryslwyn Castle Killings to follow soon.

The books focus on DI Gareth Gravel, an accomplished, old-school policeman affectionately known as Grav, who feels out of step with the modern world as he approaches retirement.

“Grav is something of a legend within the West Wales Police Force, liked and respected by the rank and file but not so much by the top brass due to his sharp tongue and a willingness to bend the rules to get results,” says Nicholl, who lives in Ferryside.

“Grav is overweight, loves rugby, drinks too much, particularly since the loss of his wife, and is struggling with chronic health issues. The job matters to him, victims matter to him, and he often goes the extra mile to protect the vulnerable victims of crime, particularly women and children, who he has a strong inclination to protect.”

The books draw on Nicholl’s own experience as a police officer and then as a child protection officer in Carmarthenshire. He started writing fiction after his psychologist recommended it as a way to process traumas he had witnessed during his career, which left him with PTSD.

He self-published his first book and it became an online bestseller; he went on to get signed by a publisher and now has 11 bestsellers behind him. His focus is on crime and the darker side of human nature, with a strong empathy for victims of abuse.

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“The four-book Carmarthen Crime Series, while fictional, draws on my real-life experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker,” he says. “I hope this gives the stories a gritty realism readers will enjoy.”

He adds that he is delighted to see the books republished as the Carmarthen Crime series.

“I grew up, live and write in west Wales, and so I’m delighted my publisher has given the books a strong Welsh identity, with stunning covers featuring some of the beautiful locations I know so very well,” he says.

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Dyfed Powys Police

Eight people have lost £58k in the last week to criminals in ‘courier fraud’ – with Llanelli area being hit hardest

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thoughtful adult woman talking on smartphone

Dyfed-Powys Police is investigating a growing number of reports of people posing as bank staff or police officers, as eight people have lost £58,000 to criminals in the last week alone due to ‘Courier Fraud’.

This increase is particularly prevalent in the Llanelli area.

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DC Gareth Jordan from the Economic Crime Team said: “People posing as fake bank staff or police officers have been calling residents and persuading them their accounts have been compromised, then sending a courier to collect the money. This is known as Courier Fraud.

“In the past week alone we have seen eight people lose a significant amount of money between them, and it’s very distressing for those victims. We are asking friends and family to look out for those that could be vulnerable – talk to them about this scam, advise them to be vigilant, and report any suspicious calls.

“Please remember that police, or your bank, will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a ‘safe’ account.”

Dyfed Powys Police warn that if someone is claiming to be a police officer asks you to withdraw money for safe keeping or that they’re investigating the bank staff, it’s a scam.

The police, or your bank, will never ask you to assist in an internal investigation. They will never ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN either. Never hand your card over with the PIN number.

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And the police will never send someone to your home to collect money, nor will they ask you to transfer funds out of your account.

Top Tips to protect yourself from fraudsters

Stop: Always take a moment to think before parting with your money or information – it could keep you safe.

Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam and report it to the police.

Report suspicious emails to: report@phishing.gov.uk

You can also report suspicious texts by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad. 

Anyone who receives a similar call is asked to contact Dyfed-Powys Police either online; by emailing: 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk or calling: 101.

Anyone who thinks they have fallen victim to a scammer should report it by calling 101, or Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. For further advice and information on how to avoid being scammed visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.

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Dyfed Powys Police

Four men fined £6,000 for ‘barbaric’ illegal foul hook fishing

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Four men caught using a barbaric and illegal fishing method by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) enforcement officers during patrols of the River Loughor, near Llanelli, have been fined a total of £6,000.

They each appeared before Llanelli Magistrates Court on 16 and 17 June and pleaded guilty to the offence of foul hooking – also known as snatching – which is prohibited under Section 1 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.

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They were fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £10,300 to NRW for investigation costs.

The men were caught by NRW fisheries enforcement officers who were undertaking riverbank patrols of the River Loughor in summer 2021, working to address and prevent the use of foul hook fishing.

Each fish caught using the foul hooking method had been snagged on its tail, back or flank. All fishing equipment and illegally caught fish were seized by NRW and later confiscated by the court.

Alun Thomas, Senior Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “Foul hook fishing is barbaric, unethical and illegal. This method of fishing is not only indiscriminate on what species or size fish that are killed, but also inflicts untold damage to unseen numbers of fish which are likely to die of their injuries soon after. This is often made worse by using deliberately tampered fishing lures.

“NRW’s Fisheries Enforcement Officers and police take these incidents seriously, as do the courts. Hopefully, the small minority of anglers considering using illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines issued by the courts.”

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Romuald Krzysztof Biernacki of Dwyfor, Llanelli, was caught using the foul hooking method on 4 July 2021. He had illegally caught four mullets and six flounder fish.

Biernacki was fined £1,500 and made to pay part of NRW’s investigation costs of £2,500.

Hung Van Tran, travelled from his Gibson Road home in Handsworth, Birmingham, to fish on river Loughor on 25 August 2021. NRW fisheries enforcement officers discovered he had illegally caught four mullet fish using the foul hook method.

Hung Van Tran was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay part of NRW’s investigation costs of £1,800.

Duc Duy Tran of Brithweynydd, Tonypandy, and Tan Van Tran of Pentrebane Street, Caerphilly, were caught during another river patrol carried out by NRW fisheries enforcement officers accompanied by Dyfed-Powys Police’s Wildlife Crime Officer on 6 September 2021.

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Duc Duy Tran had illegally caught 14 mullet fish and was fined £1,500. He must also pay £3,000 to NRW for investigation costs.

Tan Van Tran had illegally caught four mullet fish. He was fined £1,500, plus £3,000 to NRW for investigation costs.

Alun Thomas added: “We would like to thank Dyfed-Powys Police, the local community and law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities. I urge them to continue to report such activity and we will investigate.

“We would encourage anyone going fishing to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations before going.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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