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South Wales and Gwent Police to use new facial recognition app

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Police officers in South Wales and Gwent are to become the first in the UK to develop and use technology to identify wanted individuals in real time through a new facial recognition app on their mobile phones.

South Wales Police say it will enable officers to confirm the identity of a wanted suspect almost instantly even if that suspect provides false or misleading details, thereby securing their quick arrest. Cases of mistaken identity will be easily resolved and without the need for a trip to a police station or custody suite.

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During the testing phase, which will last for 3 months, the app – known as Operator Initiated Facial Recognition- will be used initially by 70 officers from South Wales Police and Gwent Police.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Travis, of South Wales Police, said: “This new app means that with the taking of a single photograph which is then compared to the police database, officers can easily and quickly answer the question of ‘Are you really the person we are looking for?’. When dealing with a person of interest during their patrols in our communities, officers will be able to access instant information allowing them to identify whether the person stopped is, or is not, the person they need to speak to, without having to return to a police station.

“I want to stress that this new technology doesn’t replace traditional means of identifying people and that our police officers will only be using the new technology in instances where it is both necessary and proportionate to do so with, as always, the end goal of keeping that particular individual, or the wider public, safe.”

The Police say that facial recognition is just one way in which technological advancements are being used across South Wales and Gwent forces with the aim of making the work of police officers easier and faster so that they can have more time to work at keeping communities safe.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Roberts, of Gwent Police, said: “Embracing technology and innovation is an important part of policing and how we continue to keep people safe. This new mobile app will be a valuable tool to help officers to identify vulnerable or missing people, saving time and reuniting loved ones quicker.

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“This tool can also provide identification of someone who is unconscious or seriously injured and unable to communicate who they are. By using this technology we are preventing harm, helping those in need and keeping our communities safe.”

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael added: “I undertake close scrutiny of the operational decisions on the introduction of technology and subject each new step to independent oversight and scrutiny because of the ethical and social concerns that have been expressed over the use of facial recognition technology. People want to know that members of the public who have done nothing wrong are not being subjected to inappropriate surveillance and that their privacy will be fully respected and protected. However, people also want us to keep them safe and to use the technology to apprehend people who have committed serious offences and take them off the streets. As a result of our robust systems of scrutiny and challenge I can provide assurance to the public that we are getting that balance right. We are committed to protecting human rights as well as keeping the public safe.

“It’s important to remember that police officers have always been able to spot a person who is wanted for a crime and stop them in the street. The difference with the use of this technology is simply the speed and accuracy with which the individual can be identified and arrested and the speed with which a person who is not wanted by the police can be allowed to go on their way.”

Facial recognition has proved controversial in the past for South Wales Police, with a previous automated system used by the force deemed unlawful following a Court of Appeal hearing in August 2020.

The case was brought by civil rights group Liberty and Mr Ed Bridges from Cardiff who objected to his image being captured by the automated system, saying this breached his human rights, and being identified by the automated system brought him distress.

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At the time of the ruling Mr Bridges said: “I’m delighted that the court has agreed that facial recognition clearly threatens our rights.

“This technology is an intrusive and discriminatory mass surveillance tool.

“For three years now, South Wales Police has been using it against hundreds of thousands of us, without our consent and often without our knowledge.

“We should all be able to use our public spaces without being subjected to oppressive surveillance.”

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South Wales Police

Logan Mwangi: Three sentenced for murder

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Three people have been sentenced for murdering five year-old Logan Mwangi, whose body was discovered by police officers in a river near his home in Sarn, in July 2021.

Angharad Williamson, 31, John Cole, 40, and 14 year-old Craig Mulligan, appeared at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday, June 30.

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They were convicted of murder and perverting the course of justice back in April. During a trial which lasted for 10-weeks, the court heard how the defendants colluded in an attempt to cover-up Logan’s murder in the hours that followed his death.

Logan’s body was found by police officers in the River Ogmore at around 6am on Saturday, 31st July, shortly after a 999 call was made by Logan’s mother, Angharad Williamson.

The defendants tried to convince officers that Logan had gone missing overnight but all three were arrested when officers became suspicious.

Damning evidence was gathered by the Major Crime Investigation Team in the days that followed and they were charged with murder.

A Home Office Post Mortem carried out on Logan found that he had suffered more than 56 injuries which were described by a pathologist to be so extreme, that you would expect to find them as a result of a fall from great height or a high speed road traffic collision.

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John Cole was jailed for life and will serve a minimum of 29 years before he can be considered for release. Angharad Williamson was jailed for life and will serve a minimum 28 years. Craig Mulligan will be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure for a minimum of 15 years.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Lianne Rees, of the South Wales Police Major Crime Investigations Team, said: “Today’s sentences are a reflection of the appalling crimes committed back in July last year.

“It is incomprehensible that Logan had his life cut short in such tragic circumstances at the hands of those very people who should have been there to protect him.

“For Logan’s father, Ben, who stands beside me, today’s sentences are welcome news, however no amount of justice can bring Logan back, or compensate for the grief that continues to be felt.

“Ben, and his family, have demonstrated incredible strength throughout the investigation and legal process. What they have been through is hard to comprehend, but they have endured everything with tremendous courage and dignity at this most difficult time.

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“The impact Logan’s death has had, and continues to have on all those who loved and knew him within the local community, is immeasurable.

“Knowing that justice has been done for Logan, I hope they can now begin to rebuild their lives and celebrate the joy that he gave them during the precious time they had with him.

“Once again, I would like to pay tribute to the professionalism displayed by police officers and emergency service colleagues who were faced with the most traumatic scenes imaginable back in July of last year.

“I would also like thank my team of detectives and staff who have worked tirelessly on this investigation, together with the Crown Prosecution Service and Prosecution Counsel. The efforts of all involved have contributed to today’s outcome.”

Following the verdict handed down in the Logan Mwangi case today, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have reiterated their calls for an independent inquiry into Children’s services in Wales to try and prevent any more tragedies.

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Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS, who worked for over 25 years as a child protection social worker said: “This case is utterly tragic and we must ensure lessons are learned so that it never happens again.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats are very clear, following a number of alarming incidents, the Welsh Government should announce a review of child protection across Wales.

“Social workers, their managers, family support workers and colleagues in the health and education systems are working hard to protect children. But, more is needed to help social workers to do their job and a Chief Social Worker for Children is needed – as they have in England.

“Both Scotland and England are carrying out independent inquiries into the state of children’s social services in their jurisdiction. There is no reason for Wales not to do the same.”

(Lead image: South Wales Police)

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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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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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Neath

Body found in search for missing Neath man

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A body has been found in the search for missing man Mathew Scott who was last seen on Saturday 4th June in Neath.

Detective Chief Inspector Mike Owens from South Wales Police said: “Officers, following up on information sent into us by members of the public, forced entry to an address in Windsor Road, Neath, yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 28th June) and found a body inside.

“Formal identification has taken place and Mathew’s family have been informed.

“Detectives are continuing enquiries to ascertain the full circumstances behind his death. A 44 year old man from Neath is assisting officers with their investigation.

“I’d like to thank everyone who shared our appeal and provided us with valuable information.”

(Lead image: South Wales Police)

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