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South Wales Police

Police issue apology after independent Mayhill riot report says residents ‘left unprotected’

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South Wales Police have been criticised in an independent report into the Mayhill riot that took place on 20 May 2021.

The report says that “residents of Waun Wen Road, Mayhill were left unprotected for a significant period of time”.

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It says that there were “failings in command structures and decisions, operational decisions and tactics, and communications” with regard to the Police’s response to the disturbance, and calls on a “forensic investigation” to take place to better understand “the full extent of these failings and explanations for any failings”.

Large numbers of youths gathered on Waun Wen Road in Mayhill on the night of 20 May, 2021 setting fire to cars and throwing bricks at vehicles and homes as a “vigil” into the death of teenager Ethan Powell turned violent.

Ethan’s father, Jonathan Russ later condemned the actions of the rioters.

South Wales Police say that the subsequent investigation has involved the taking of 118 statements and officers have viewed over 600 multi-media video clips ranging in length from 11 seconds to 12 minutes in duration. The police added that officers have examined every piece of this footage together with reviewing more than 23 hours of CCTV and body worn footage.

The criminal investigations have resulted in files being submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service and charging decisions are expected shortly.

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46 arrests have been made following the incident, with South Wales Police awaiting a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service on a total of 37 individuals involved in the disorder.

The independent review into the riot was led by a three-member panel chaired by a QC, Prof Elwen Evans, alongside vice-chairs police expert Martin Jones and local government expert Jack Straw.

Panel members spoke to members of the community in Mayhill as part of the report.

The Chief Constable of South Wales Police has issued an apology to the residents of Mayhill for the operational police response following publication of the report, with the police saying it was clear from the incident and from footage circulated on social media that local residents were worried for their own safety and for the safety of their homes and property in what was a frightening incident for the community.

Rioters damaged cars and threw bricks at homes during the disturbance

Police issue apology

Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan said: “I want to apologise to all those who have been affected by this incident and particularly those local residents who were tormented by those responsible. We failed to take action quickly enough on the night and for that I am truly sorry.

“We have made some immediate improvements to our operational practices following this incident including how we manage information around an escalating incident and how we draw upon resource from across South Wales and beyond more quickly.”

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Assistant Chief Constable Mark Travis, who oversaw the initial operational review following the incident, said: “I know the community wants to see those responsible for these terrible events brought to justice and I would like to personally thank those who have assisted our investigation so far and we are hopeful of a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service in the very near future following a comprehensive investigation into what went on.

“A large group of individuals were involved in shocking scenes of disorder which led to vehicles being set alight and a number of residents feeling terrified in their own homes and in need of help and support.

“Our response to that incident was reviewed internally and has now been the subject of the Independent Learning Review which has concluded that there were areas where our response on the night fell short of our usual high standards and the expectations of the community. A number of areas of learning have been highlighted in relation to our response and we fully accept the findings of the review.

“We are determined that our learning from this event will continue as we use the recommendations of the Independent Learning Review with oversight from the College of Policing so that we can fully understand how events unfolded on the night and take appropriate action.

“South Wales Police has an excellent reputation for policing major sporting and other international events. We have well-trained officers who have the skills to deal with the most challenging of incidents which makes it all the more frustrating that on this occasion  we recognise that  we got our response wrong, something  which we fully accept.

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“The local policing team in Swansea is committed to providing the best level of service to the community of Mayhill and will continue to work with residents, partners and organisations to ensure we keep them safe.”

The aftermath of the riot on Waun Wen Road in May 2021

Police and Crime Commissioner reacts to report

South Wales Police & Crime Commissioner, Alun Michael said: “As we publish the extremely helpful report of the Independent Learning Review, led by Professor Elwen Evans QC, Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan has given a clear and straightforward apology for shortcomings on the night of May 20. I welcome his statement.

“The most important people in this are the local residents, particularly those who were direct victims of criminal violence or antisocial behaviour and it is to them that the Report, the apology and our responses are directed today. The scenes we saw in Mayhill on May 20 were truly shocking and led to detailed investigations which I sincerely hope will lead to court cases shortly. A full file of evidence has been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service and is under active consideration.  It is with the local community that local police have sought to reconnect and build confidence and I pay tribute to the way in which the community itself rallied and united in the face of the terrible events of that night.  But none of that detracts from the importance of the Report and its findings.

“Our priority now is to act on the findings of the Report so with the support of the Chief Constable I have asked the College of Policing to provide external expertise and professional oversight to the on-going learning of South Wales Police, using the recommendations of the Independent Learning Review for that work, so that I can be satisfied that all necessary improvements have been made. If issues can be addressed now they will be, although some issues may have to wait until the court cases have been completed.  

“I believe that we will all benefit from the decision taken by myself and the Chief Constable jointly with the Leader and Chief Executive of Swansea Council to commission the Independent Learning Review together rather than waiting until after the end of court processes.  I look forward to us working with the Leader and the Council on issues that require cooperation and partnership rather than being matters for a single agency. 

“South Wales Police has a well-justified international reputation for handling major events as well as for local policing and working with partners to reduce crime and harm. Officers take great pride in that and rightly so.   On this occasion South Wales Police got their response wrong and the test of quality is to accept criticism when it is justified and to tackle the issues head on.  That is what is happening now.

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“I know how keen people are to ask why specific events happen but from previous experience – I was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee investigating the London Riots of 2011 – I know it is often easier to frame the question than to find answers.  In this case, it seems evident that there was no single cause of the disorder and that there is a complex set of circumstances behind what happened.

“Finally I thank the Council for their partnership and Welsh Government Ministers Jane Hutt MS and Rebecca Evans MS for supporting the Review.”

The clean-up operation the following day (Image: Swansea Council)

Swansea Council response

Swansea Council have also responded to the report. In a statement, the council said they welcomed the findings of the panel.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The events of 20 May last year were not reflective of the residents or these communities and we will continue to be there for Mayhill and Waun Wen.

“We are grateful the panel recognised the comprehensive plan we have developed for Mayhill and Waun Wen detailing the significant investment and support the council has made over many years and our plans for additional investment to build on this.

“We have already started work to address the panel’s recommendations for the council and are meeting with partners to improve the way we work together and to develop a plan to further strengthen community development, including youth provision and safe spaces.

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“We will look to further support groups, organisations and individuals who make positive contributions to the community and also develop initiatives in other areas of Swansea.

“In the last few years a new health and children’s centre has opened, there has been investment to further extend Flying Start provision, money has been spent on creating an early help hub and on school holiday activities and other youth provision.

“Since May the council has installed a new play area in Mayhill Park and a pop-up youth club has started in the community centre and there have been other activities including a very success free family fun day.

“We will be further boosting our youth services and facilities in this area as part of our on-going investment in our young people.

“We’ve also been talking with businesses about improvements to commercial areas such as Gors Avenue to make them a more welcoming space as part of Swansea’s Economic Recovery Plan for businesses across the city.

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“Following our immediate response to clear and repair damage caused during the disturbance, we have also taken action to resurface roads, spruce up street furniture and cut back overgrowth with more to come.

“We are working with residents on developing a new road layout and landscaping to create a new natural barrier on Waun Wen Road and, subject to their support, we will look to create a new play area and community space as part of this work.

“We will also be furthering our community engagement activities and community action projects, not just in Mayhill and Waun Wen but across Swansea, by developing local initiatives to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, raising awareness of volunteering and promoting shared values, diversity and inclusion.”

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