Friday, 5 December 2008

Roadside breath tests top 600 as drink-drive crackdown begins to bite

MORE than 600 people have been stopped and breathalysed since police launched a Christmas drink-drive crackdown on December 1.
As a result of the checks, 13 drivers were arrested, two of whom were aged under 25 years.
Supt Andy Pullan said: “We are continuing to take a zero tolerance approach to drink-drivers.
“This is not just about the risk of getting caught, it is about the simple fact that if you drink and drive, you are 50 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash - why take the risk?
“Any amount of alcohol affects your ability to drive safely.
“The effects can include slower reactions, increased stopping distance, poorer judgement of speed and distance, and reduced field of vision.
“Alcohol also tends to make you feel over-confident and more likely to take risks when driving, which increases the danger to all road users, including yourself.”
National figures show that motorists who drive at twice over the current legal limit of 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood are at least 50 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash, compared to a driver who has not been drinking.

Beware mobile phone cashback schemes, say Trading Standards

SHOPPERS in West Somerset are being warned by Somerset County Council to be cautious of mobile phone cashback schemes.
People thinking of buying a new mobile phone in the run up to Christmas could be tempted by contracts which appear to suggest that money paid out in monthly phone bills can be reclaimed.
In reality, the complexity of these contracts often leaves the consumer out of pocket, warn county council trading standards officers.
The cashback offer is often a separate contract to the one taken out with the mobile phone company, and the terms and conditions are seldom fully explained to the customer.
The schemes are often complex and inflexible, which can result in the customer being unable to reclaim their money.
The consumer may be asked to post their mobile phone bills to the cashback operator within strict time limits in order to claim their cashback, and are often unable to check whether they have been received.
Concerns have been raised amid reports that operators are withholding payment on the grounds that the paperwork has been ‘lost in the post’.
The county council is advising shoppers to check the terms and conditions carefully before signing up to any cashback schemes and to ensure that all necessary documentation is sent by recorded delivery.
Somerset Trading Standards team group manager Howard Burnett said: “Mobile phone cashback schemes can seem an attractive prospect to shoppers looking to purchase a new mobile phone.
“I would urge consumers to make sure that they read the small print in order to make an informed decision about the best deal for them.”
The council’s community safety portfolio holder, Councillor Henry Hobhouse, said: “We are committed to providing services for a modern society.
“Consumer rights are becoming an increasingly important aspect of everyday life, and the information provided by the council will help local people to be wary of schemes which could leave them out of pocket.”
All terms and conditions in consumer contracts are covered by law.
Anybody with any concerns about terms and conditions, or who would like to check their customer rights should contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or visit

Dulverton police team up with Devon and Cornwall officers to catch anti-social drivers

POLICE in Dulverton teamed up with their Devon and Cornwall colleagues in Bampton for a weekend of relentless activity to crack down on anti-social driving.
Operation Dodge was in response to a recent rise in reports of anti-social driving in and around the Dulverton, Tiverton, and Bampton areas.
The operation, which was carried out on Saturday and Sunday, November 22 and 23, focussed on anti-social driving, speeding, and drink drivers.
Officers gave advice to local motorists as well as using powers under Section 59 of the Police Reform Act.
Section 59 is an effecting tool for ensuring anybody driving without the expected care and attention can receive a warning notice which applies to both the driver and the vehicle and lasts for 12 months.
If, in this time, a second incident occurs - involving the driver or the vehicle - police will seize the vehicle and may prosecute the driver.
Dulverton Neighbourhood Police team Sgt Andy Whysall, said: “Operation Dodge was an excellent example of multi-agency working at its best.
“Avon and Somerset Constabulary joined forces with Devon and Cornwall to tackle the growing issue of anti-social driving across the border.
“We were able to collate and share valuable intelligence and together we hope that we were able to raise awareness of the consequences of committing driving-related offences.
“We would like to encourage local residents to continue to report any incidents of anti-social driving in their neighbourhood by calling their Safer Stronger neighbourhood policing team on 0845 456 7000.
“The message is clear - anybody driving in an anti-social manner in and around the Dulverton, Bampton, and Tiverton areas can expect to receive a fixed penalty notice or in some cases, their vehicle may be seized.”
  • Our photograph shows police stopping and talking to a car driver. Photo by Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

'Frankenstein' experiements on Quantocks are subject of auction letters

EARLY experiments on the Quantock Hills conducted into electricity are the subject of letters recently acquired by Somerset County Council’s Record Office.
It has purchased two letters written in the 1830s by local man Andrew Crosse (pictured, left) detailing his experiments within the field of electricity.
The experiments were conducted at Fyne Court, Broomfield.
The letters have been catalogued and will be added to the holdings of the Somerset Record Office (pictured, below), alongside other material already held relating to Crosse, who experimented with the presence of electricity in the atmosphere.
Crosse’s experiments and the resulting spectacular effects of lightning and loud bangs caused alarm at the time among people living on the Fyne Court estate.
It was stories about these experiments, which Crosse recounted during a series of lectures, which were said to have inspired Mary Shelley to write her famous novel, ‘Frankenstein’.
Shelley reputedly attended one of Crosse’s lectures in London.
Somerset’s Head of Archives, Janet Tall, said: “These letters are an important addition to the archives, which help to give an insight into the work of a local man experimenting with electricity at a time when this was a new field.”
Adult and community services portfolio holder Councillor Justin Robinson said: “This is very exciting for the Record Office, and we are proud to be able to provide access to the letters.
“I would encourage people to visit the office, which provides new experiences and an insight into the history of Somerset.”
The council purchased the two letters at auction for £400.
Both letters talk about ‘some products formed in a new manner’ and also speak of a desire to see the work being conducted into ‘animal magnetism’.
The Record Office’s catalogue also includes publications and a few other letters, mentioning progression with electro-voltaic batteries, on which Crosse also worked.
The letters are now catalogued (reference number A\CYG) and can be viewed free of charge in the office.
Anybody who wants to visit the office should make an appointment up to three weeks in advance by calling 01823 337600.

Prices slashed in Woolies sale as Dragon pulls out of rescue bid

MILLIONAIRE entrepreneur Theo Paphitis has pulled out of a possible deal which could have saved the jobs of employees of the Minehead branch of Woolworths.
The troubled retailer went into administration last week with debts of £385 million and receivers Deloitte was immediately approached with several inquiries about purchasing the chain.
Mr Paphitis, a star of the BBC Dragon’s Den television programme, was said to be interested in bidding for some of the more profitable Woolies stores and maintaining the Woolworths brand.
However, the Dragon has now pulled out and said in a statement: “Unfortunately, the constituent parts of Woolworths are more valuable than the whole.
“The administrators have a difficult job to do and I appreciate they need to get the highest cash value for the business.
“I hope that an alternative proposal succeeds in securing the future for the many Woolworths employees involved.”
Mr Paphitis has previously revived troubled brands such as La Senza and the stationary chain Rymans.
His withdrawal leaves the future of 30,000 Woolworths jobs in doubt, although Deloitte said the stores would continue throughout the Christmas period and money had been ring fenced to pay salaries.
It is now expected that most of the stores will be sold in small groups to a number of different bidders.
The deadline for bids for single or small groups of stores was 4 pm on Wednesday.
Supermarket firms Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, the Co-op, and discount chain Poundland were all said to be interested in some of Woolworths’ prime high street locations.
The largest shareholder in Woolworths, Ardeshir Naghshineh, was also reported to be preparing a bid for the company.
Woolworths will tomorrow start its ‘biggest ever’ sale in an effort to shift large volumes of stock, slashing prices by up to 50 per cent across its product range.
Deloitte partner Neville Kahn said: “We anticipate increased footfall in the stores and have hired additional staff to cope with increased demand.
“Additional goods have been moved to all stores and further stock will be added in the coming days.”
Woolworths Group, which has a 40 per cent stake in 2Entertain, a joint publishing venture with the BBC, is also likely to be placed into administration.

Forging stronger links between community and public services

A NEW attempt is being made to forge stronger links between representatives of local public organisations and the community of West Somerset in what is known as a Local Area Panel.
The Minehead Area Panel is piloting the first of the new-look panels with a meeting to be held in the United Reform Church Hall, Bancks Street, Minehead, at 6 pm next Wednesday (December 10).
It is open to anybody to attend.
Representatives of Exmoor National Park Authority, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, officers from the county council’s locality and community teams, Somerset Primary Care Trust, and Magna West Somerset Housing Association, have been invited to join the panel.
West Somerset Council’s Minehead panel representative Adrian Dyer said: “The police already have a standing item on the agenda so that people can raise any issues that affect their community.
“Members of the business community, and officers and councillors from the local authorities are also present so that people can discuss anything from roads to regeneration.
“The panels have been very successful in some areas and we are looking to develop all of them, which is why we have asked other agencies to come along.
“The panels have the potential to be dynamic, interactive forums where the public can influence policy and make positive changes at a grass roots level.
“We hope this will appeal to people in our community, and we would welcome their input and their views.
“By working together, we can improve local social and economic well-being and help ensure our communities remain strong and active.”

Candlelight nights in Dunster support hospice services

VISITORS are being encouraged to experience the ‘magical medieval spirit’ of Dunster as the village turns back time and lights its ancient streets with candles during the weekend.
The annual Dunster by Candlelight event starts at 5 pm tomorrow (Friday) until 9.30 pm and again from 4pm to 9.30 pm on Saturday.
Giant stiltwalkers will cast eerie shadows as they lead a procession to hang lanterns around the town.
Clowns, carollers, Morris dancers, jugglers, and traditional entertainers will make merry throughout the village.
Television wildlife celebrity Johnny Kingdom will be signing books about Exmoor, and the Exmoor Zoo will show off exotic ‘Wonders from around the World’.
There will also be warm punch and hot chestnuts baked on open braziers for outdoor comfort, hotels and pubs providing a warm welcome to visitors, while Dunster’s wide variety of shops display an excellent selection of Christmas gifts.
West Somerset Council events manager Jill Homewood said: “This is a firm favourite on local people’s calendars, and those visiting for the first time will be charmed by the magic of Dunster by Candlelight.
“The village is steeped in history and, lit by candles, it brings a warm traditional perspective to Christmas shopping that is often missed on the high streets.
“It is a fantastic, old-fashioned festive event for all the family.”
Father Christmas, choirs, Victorian merry-go-rounds, and a host of other activities make it an event not to be missed.
Street collectors and entertainers will be raising funds this year to support St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice, which provides free care, advice, and support to people in West Somerset who have been diagnosed with an illness that is no longer responsive to curative treatment.
Programmes cost £1 and have been on sale since October in the Dunster shops, and on the Candlelight nights they will be on sale at the top of the steps as visitors step off the park and ride bus.
Programmes can also be obtained by emailing and marking the subject as ‘Dunster by Candlelight’.
A park and ride scheme, which includes wheelchair-friendly travel options, will run from Vulcan Road Car Park, in Minehead, at a cost of £2.50.
Dunster’s village car parks will be closed after 3 pm on the Candlelight days, due to the event’s popularity.
The West Somerset Railway is again running special trains each Candlelight evening from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead, stopping at Dunster.
Information on any remaining train seats can be obtained by calling the WSR information line on 01643 704996.
More information is available by visiting

Police appeal after Dulverton Land Rover is vandalised

POLICE in Dulverton have appealed for help from the public after a grey Land Rover Freelander was vandalised.
The vehicle was parked overnight in Northmoor Road, Dulverton, on November 21-22 when the attack happened.
An object was used to scratch the entire length of the vehicle’s panels on one side, causing several hundreds of pounds of damage.
Neighbourhood beat manager PC Clare Adams has asked for anybody with any information about the incident to contact her at Dulverton Police Station by calling 0845 4567000.
Alternatively, they can use the Crimestoppers confidential freephone line on 0800 555 111.
Photo illustrative only.

Police advice for butchers after illegal poaching complaints

BUTCHERS in Minehead and Porlock have been visited by police and environmental health officers following complaints about illegal poaching in the area.
The police officers and district council staff discussed with the butchers where they obtained any local game they sold.
A police spokesman said the visits were intended to ensure correct procedures were in place for selling meat such as venison and pheasant.
As a result of the operation, a working guide is to be produced and distributed to everybody involved in the trade.
The police spokesman said the butcher shop visits, which were carried out on Tuesday, were ‘in direct response to a number of complaints received about illegal poaching’.
He said: “It was an ideal opportunity to demonstrate to those involved that the police and environment department work closely together and take the issue of poaching seriously, and that those involved in the meat industry need to be aware of exactly where they obtain their game from.
“A number of issues were raised by both the police and environment department as well as the local butchers, and a working guide will now be produced and distributed to all concerned.”
Anybody with any information on poaching is being asked to call the Crimestoppers confidential freephone line on 0800 555 111 or contact Sgt Andy Whysall, of Dulverton Police Station, on 0845 456 7000.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Matron Suzanne meets Queen at Buckingham Palace reception

A MATRON from Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, has been to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen after courageously overcoming serious injuries suffered in a road accident.
Suzanne Pilkington (pictured), matron of the Children’s Unit, was one of only six guests from the Westcountry to attend the Buckingham Palace reception for healthcare professionals.
Suzanne, who lives near Taunton, was nominated by Musgrove foundation trust chairman Ros Wyke.
About 200 guests attended the reception and Suzanne spent two hours at the palace meeting members of the Royal Family, including the Queen, the Duke of Kent, and Princess Alexandra.
Suzanne said afterwards: “It was a wonderful evening.
“We were treated to Champagne and hors d’oeuvres and were able to wander around the State Rooms where there were items on display from the Royal Collection that related to healthcare through the centuries.
“It was fascinating and I felt so proud to be there representing Musgrove.
“I wore my matron’s uniform with pride and just felt so honoured.”
Mrs Wyke said: “We were so delighted that Suzanne was selected for this special reception.
“We nominated her because of the way she courageously overcame her injuries following a serious road accident when she was cycling to work.
“She sustained major injuries, including a broken pelvis and head injuries.
“Suzanne was a much admired matron before the accident, but the way in which she has bravely undergone her rehabilitation and returned to work has been an inspiration for the whole workforce.
“I am so thrilled that she has been recognised in this way.”

Award for Special Constable who works with schools

A SPECIAL Constable for the past eight years in Wiveliscombe was one of this year’s winners of the Avon and Somerset Local Justice Awards.
Tony Alderman collected an award in the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ category for his important work to support the criminal justice system at a presentation held yesterday in Rookery Manor near Weston-super-Mare.
Mr Alderman works full-time as a schools liaison officer in Wiveliscombe, Wellington, and Taunton trying to develop better relationships between young people and the police.
His work focuses on building strong relationships with young people, helping them to understand important legal and moral issues about crime, drugs, and the law.
Mr Alderman presently works with 11 schools in the area, ensuring young people of different backgrounds have access to the service.
Chief Constable Colin Port, who is chairman of the criminal justice board, said: “Tony has fulfilled his role with amazing energy and commitment and truly deserves to be recognised for his important contribution."
  • Our photograph shows Tony Alderman receiving his award from High Sheriff of Somerset, Anne Maw. Photo submitted.

Award recognises church group's work to reduce re-offending

A CHURCH project working with criminals in West Somerset to help reduce re-offending rates is one of the winners of the 2008 Avon and Somerset Local Justice Awards.
The Hope Centre, based in the Baptist Church, Parks Lane, Minehead (pictured), received the Avon and Somerset Criminal Justice Board award at a presentation held yesterday in Rookery Manor near Weston-super-Mare.
It won the category for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Reducing Re-Offending’ for its work to support the homeless, drug and alcohol abusers, and people involved in criminal activities.
Volunteers working at the centre provide advice and support as well as hot meals and facilities in a bid to reduce re-offending and help put people’s lives back on track.
They also help to make doctors appointments and speak to housing officers and source furniture for those who have made a fresh start in accommodation of their own.
Those who attend the centre are also able to take part in constructive activities, such as crafts, games, and trips out.
The annual Local Justice Awards are nominated by criminal justice staff and members of the public.
Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Colin Port, who is chairman of the criminal justice board, said: “The impact that The Hope Centre has on the Minehead community has been huge.
“Not only do many of their visitors now enjoy a better quality of life, but the level of calls received by the police in relation to these people has dropped considerably.
“Every day, thousands of people across the criminal justice system do an amazing job and their dedication makes a dramatic difference to people’s lives.
“The awards are held each year to honour individuals and recognise exceptional achievement.
“I congratulate the winners, all of whom have gone further than what is expected of them to improve the criminal justice system for the people of Avon and Somerset.
“They truly are heroes of the criminal justice system.”
  • Our photograph shows members of The Hope Centre receiving their award certificate from Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Somerset Alison Cromme. Photo submitted.

New chaplain takes over the reins at hospital

A NEW lead chaplain for Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton, has been inducted at a service held in the hospital’s chapel.
He is the Rev Jeff Gosden, who was previously a chaplain at Northampton General Hospital, and Stoke Mandeville, in Aylesbury.
The induction service was led by the Rev Jez Brown, the senior regional minister for the South West Baptist Association, and attended by Taunton Christians Together chairman Adrian Prior-Sankey, Free Churches Secretary for Health Care Chaplaincy the Rev Debbie Hodge, Musgrove consultant Dr Paul Kist, and Andy Burges, who is associate general manager for the clinical support division, and other members of the hospital team.
Mr Gosden said: “I am looking forward to working with the very committed and enthusiastic team here at Musgrove.
“We have over 40 volunteers and our work extends into the community hospitals across the county.
“I have a hard act to follow but I hope to support the continued development of the excellent chaplaincy service that Musgrove is known for.”
Mr Burgess said: “The chaplaincy service at Musgrove Park is extremely important in helping to ensure that we care for the whole person, not just an illness.
“Our team of chaplains, paid and volunteers, do a fantastic job in providing spiritual care and support to staff, patients, relatives, and visitors.
“Jeff is very experienced and knowledgeable and will help us develop the service even further.”
Musgrove patients, staff, and visitors can contact the chaplaincy team at any time by visiting the chapel on the first floor of the Duchess Building, or by calling 01823 342515.
  • The Musgrove Park Christmas Carol Service takes place at 3 pm on Sunday, December 14, in the physiotherapy gym on the ground floor of the Queens Building.
  • Our photograph shows Mr Gosden in front of the tapestry of the tree of life which hangs in the chapel at Musgrove Park. Photo submitted.

Second benefits cheat given 'slapped wrist' by magistrates

A SECOND West Somerset benefits cheat has been let off by magistrates after the district council took a prosecution to court.
Ian Ware, aged 41, of The Glebe, Timberscombe, claimed nearly £5,000 in housing benefit and council tax benefit to which he was not entitled.
His fraud was committed over a 14-month period from February of last year to April of this year, during which time Ware dishonestly failed to notify the council of changes to his circumstances.
Despite having found work, Ware did not promptly tell the council and continued to receive a total of £3,704.27 in housing benefit and £1,097.31 in council tax benefit to which he was not entitled.
Ware, who had since started to pay back the over-paid benefits at a rate of less than £10 a week, pleaded guilty to the offence.
The magistrates gave him credit for an early guilty plea and the fact he was already making some repayments to the council.
They conditionally discharged Ware for 12 months, which meant he would not be further punished if he kept out of trouble during that time.
The court did not make any order for compensation as arrangements were already in place.
Following the hearing, West Somerset Council finance portfolio holder, Councillor Doug Ross, appealed for the public to report anybody they suspected of dishonestly claiming benefits.
Councillor Ross said the council had a fraud hotline on 01984 635236 which people could call anonymously to tip off the authority’s benefits team.
He said: “It is made clear to benefits claimants that the responsibility to report changes in circumstances lies with them.
“Our benefits team is on hand to help anybody who may find themselves in difficult circumstances and we would advise people to contact the team if they need to.
“Failure to do so will lead to our fraud team taking action against people who are dishonestly claiming benefits to which they are not entitled.”

Stolen stone cockerels hold sentimental value

POLICE are appealing for information following the theft of two sentimental stone ornamental cockerels from the doorstep of a Quantocks village home.
The ornaments, which were a gift to the owner’s late husband, hold great sentimental value and were believed to have been stolen between 10 am and 1 pm on Friday, November 14.
They were kept outside the front door of the owner’s home in Mill Lane, Nether Stowey.
Police are keen to talk to anybody who was in the area at the time or who may have seen something suspicious.
Anybody with any information should contact Bridgwater Police Station on 0845 456 7000 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
  • Our photograph shows the two stone cockerels. Photo by Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

Child protection seminars for clubs and organisations

ANYBODY involved in running clubs or organisations for children and young people in West Somerset will be able to benefit from safeguarding advice offered by the Child-Safe initiative.
Child-Safe is a national child protection initiative, set up originally by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary and now adapted for local delivery in the county.
It is a registered charity - - which provides practical advice and promotes the safety, welfare, and protection of children and young people involved in sport and community groups.
The initiative is about improving care, reducing opportunities of abuse in its widest sense, and helping all parents, carers, organisers, or volunteers involved in supporting youngsters in such activities.
The scheme is free of charge and provides clubs with a seminar and resource pack to enable them to put in place child protection measures.
Organisers, leaders, parents, and carers can feel reassured that child protection will be taken seriously within clubs using this scheme.
Child-Safe seminars in 2009 will be held in Williton Council Chambers from 7 pm to 8.30 pm on Tuesday, June 23, and in Taunton Library on Thursday, September 24, from 7 pm to 8.30 pm.
Any club or organisation which would like to find out more, or book a place on one of the seminars, should contact the Child-Safe administrator by calling 01823 358098 or via the website address above.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Dragon's Den star Theo gives hope to Woolies staff

BBC Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis (pictured) may launch a buyout of Woolworths which could save the jobs of dozens of workers in the company’s Minehead store.
Woolworths went into administration last week with £385 million of debt, but administrators Deloitte said it was hopeful of finding a buyer for the chain, which has 30,000 employees and 815 stores.
Mr Paphitis is said to be one of several people showing ‘substantial interest’ in the firm.
The millionaire businessman said in a statement: “If we were successful in our negotiations, then it would be my priority to safeguard the future of as many of the employees as possible.
“I would want to keep the Woolworths name alive as it is held with such deep affection, and I would of course want to keep trading as many of the high street stores as possible.”
Mr Paphitis said a speedy resolution was ‘absolutely crucial’ to keeping Woolworths together.
“I have a great belief in the Woolworths brand and would love to see the name remain on the high street,” he said.
Deloitte’s Neville Kahn, Nick Dargan, and Dan Butters have been appointed joint administrators to Woolworths plc and Entertainment UK (E UK) Ltd, the wholesale division on Woolworths.
Mr Khan, the reorganisation services partner, said: “Woolworths has suffered a number of cash flow problems.
“Strenuous efforts over recent weeks to keep these companies going have unfortunately failed and the businesses are now looking to be rescued under the administration process.
“The company will continue to trade. Stores will remain open past Christmas and employees in stores will be paid.
“We have mobilised a large Deloitte team to stabilise the business, and have hired Hilco as our agent to assist in the management of the retail business.
“We appreciate the co-operation and support from the management and staff.
“We are glad that arrangements are in place to ensure that all wages will be paid in full this week.”
Mr Butters said: “We are working hard to ensure that any sale of the business, whole or part, will preserve jobs.”
As well as trying to find a buyer for Woolworths, Deloitte will also be seeking to retrieve something for those owed money by the company, including banks and suppliers.
Mr Butters confirmed how within 24 hours of Deloitte’s appointment as administrators, expressions of interest in Woolworths had been received from ‘a number of parties’.

'Slapped wrist' for £1,600 Watchet benefits cheat

A BENEFITS cheat who dishonestly claimed more than £1,600 has been given a ‘slap on the wrist’ by West Somerset magistrates after the district council prosecuted him.
Eric Gitsham, aged 49, of Maglands Road, Watchet, pleaded guilty to failing to notify the council of a change in circumstances while he was receiving housing and council tax benefits.
By not declaring that his wife had been working during the 15 months from April of last year to July of this year, Gitsham was paid £1,377.02 in housing benefit and £251.02 in council tax benefit to which he was not entitled.
The magistrates gave Gitsham credit for making an early guilty plea and they took into account his current financial circumstances - both he and his wife were now unemployed.
Gitsham was conditionally discharged for 12 months, which meant he would not be further punished for the offence if he stayed out of trouble during that time.
A compensation order was also made for Gitsham to repay to the council the overpayment of benefit at £10 a week.
District council finance portfolio holder Councillor Doug Ross said after the court hearing: “People who break the law by claiming benefits they are not entitled to should be aware that our fraud team will take action against them.
“If convicted in court, they will also find themselves with a criminal record.
“It is vital that people claiming benefits report changes in their circumstances to our benefits team immediately, as we are here to help those facing hardship.
“If people suspect somebody of claiming benefits fraudulently, they can report them anonymously on our confidential benefit fraud hotline on 01984 635236.
“All the caller needs to do is leave the name of the person suspected and details of the alleged fraud.
“We can simply check out the details and if fraud is proven, we can act to stop hard-working taxpayers footing the bill for this criminal activity.”

Monday, 1 December 2008

Expect the worst if you drink and drive this Christmas, say police

EXPECT to be stopped, expect to be breathalysed, and, if you are over the limit, expect to lose your licence - is the robust message police are sending out to motorists who drink and drive.
As officers launch their annual Christmas drink-drive crackdown today, they are sending out a clear message:
  • If you drive on the roads of Avon and Somerset this Christmas and you have had a drink, expect to get stopped, expect to be breathalysed, and if you are over the limit, expect to lose your licence, possibly your job, and in some cases your liberty.

  • Ask yourself, is it really worth it?

With young men making up the bulk of drink-drive offenders, police are seeking to drive home the message that unless they resist the temptation to drink, or make other arrangements to go home safely, they risk wrecking their future for the sake of one night out.
Supt Andy Pullan, the officer in charge of the force’s road policing unit, said: “Although drink-driving is a year-round problem we tackle day-in, day-out, the temptations of Christmas parties and impromptu drinks after work can mean people who might otherwise be more organised and make arrangements to get home are tempted to get behind the wheel when they should not.
“Rather than getting hung up on ‘safe limits’, our advice is that if you are driving, do not drink at all.
“One drink alone is enough to have an effect on your reactions and perceptions and put your own and other, innocent, people’s lives at risk.”
Police plan to stop and check an estimated 10,000 motorists during the festive period and will take the opportunity to speak to each one about the dangers of drink-driving and provide general crime reduction and personal safety advice.
Last Christmas, a total of 216 motorists were arrested for drink-driving across the force and 549 of those breathalysed were involved in a collision.
Supt Pullan said: “A really important part of this campaign is our appeal to members of the public to do their bit by telling us about people they suspect regularly or intend to drink and drive.
“If people do not feel confident to challenge the driver themselves, then it is imperative they contact us so we can take action.
“Nobody should risk having the death of somebody on their conscience for the sake of a phone call.”
Anybody with information about drink-drivers should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where they do not have to give their name and they could receive a reward.
In urgent cases where it is suspected somebody is driving or about to drive while drunk, thereby putting life at risk, people should dial 999.
Anybody caught driving over the limit faces a minimum punishment of:

  • A conviction in court

  • A driving ban of at least 12 months

  • An endorsement of their driving licence for 11 years - meaning it will be 11 years before their licence is ‘clean’ again

  • A criminal record

  • They could also face a fine of up to £5,000 and a six-month prison sentence

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Kennel Club award for dog-friendly Nether Stowey B&B

A NETHER Stowey B&B has been awarded a Kennel Club honour for an innovative attempt to beat the credit crunch.
The Old Cider House (pictured), in Castle Street, won the Open For Dogs award after a national vote for the most canine-friendly businesses.
Ian Pearson and his partner Lynne Abbott, who bought the Edwardian property six years ago, particularly encourage visitors with dogs.
The couple provide them with a welcome pack containing details of local walks, dog collar identity tags, and homemade dog biscuits.
They have a black labrador, Ozy, who also greets guests on arrival.
The couple received a certificate and engraved golden dog bowl at the Kennel Club’s annual Discover Dogs event held in London earlier this month.
Mr Pearson also runs Somerset's smallest micro-brewery, Stowey Brewery, which he started in an outbuilding in 2006.
He said: “Our customers love having the dogs around and we think it is so important as a business to make dog owners feel welcome.
“We keep up-to-date with the most dog-friendly walks in the area and we are delighted to have won the Kennel Club’s award.”

Armed police swoop to 'free hostage' after 999 hoax

ARMED police rushed to a house in Minehead town centre in the early hours of Tuesday after 999 calls that a person was being held hostage by a man with a gun.
But it turned out to be a hoax which later resulted in a youth being arrested and fined for wasting police time.
The emergency network received several calls from a mobile phone around 12.30 am on Tuesday, which caused police to believe that there was a firearm or a bomb involved in the incident.
An armed response unit was despatched to Bampton Street and a man was arrested and taken from a house into police custody.
However, police could not find any trace of a gun or any other weapon, and the arrested man was later found to be an innocent party and was released.
Two days later, on Thursday, further inquiries led police to a 19-year-old man, whom they arrested for wasting police time. He received a fixed penalty notice.
Minehead police Inspector Carol Pearce said: “I am satisfied that following information that somebody was being held hostage in some way, an appropriate response was made.
“All calls are recorded and traced and we will respond with an appropriate level of force as we believe necessary.
“As we believed firearms or bombs were involved, it required us to respond with an armed unit.
“We urge people not to get silly during the festive period because those who do will be traced and dealt with accordingly.”