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A company director who sexually assaulted three young children has been described as “an abuser hiding in plain sight”.
Joseph D’Agnilli, 71, of Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan, sexually abused one child in the 1980s and assaulted his other two victims within the last decade.
The abuse was kept secret for years and the defendant lived a prosperous and well-respected life – but his true nature came to light when his victims, who have lifelong anonymity, contacted the police.
Parents of the children said D’Agnilli had destroyed their lives and caused severe psychological trauma to his victims, which they would never recover from.
Read more: Go here to read all the latest stories from the courts in Wales
The defendant, of Drylla, denied such abuse but he was found guilty of one count of indeceny with a child and seven counts of sexual assault of a child under 13, following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court.
At D’Agnilli’s sentencing hearing on Thursday, prosecutor James Wilson read out a victim personal statment from one his victims.
She said: “What he did to me as a child still affects my life. I feel out of control and unable to sleep over the years…. I have contemplated suicide twice and feel my children will be better off without me. It has had a significant detrimental effect on my mental health and I have situational depression linked to PTSD, linked to my abuse. I can’t talk about my childhood, it triggers my negative thoughts too much…
“The personal trauma led me to have low self worth and confidence which makes it difficult for me to have relationships with others. I don’t like other people. He could have chosen to plead guilty and prevent the torture of a Crown court trial.”
Statements from two of the victim’ mothers were also read out to the court.
The first statement read: “Since the abuse my daughter has been suffering with nightmares, anxiety and low moods. She recognises she need therapy but no amount of counselling will take away what someone has done to you. It cannot stop you being triggered by the news, films, television or music. If he had pleaded guilty she would have been able to have accessed support years ago.
“She’s resilent but suffers from ups and downs and from tough periods in her life. One minute she can be having the best of times and someone says or does something and she’s triggered.
“I am angry and embarassed I was unable to keep my daughter safe, I am beyond angry. He’s never accepted responsibility for all the pain he’s caused to the children. My main fear as a mother is she’s going to blame me for not protecting her.”
She added: “(My daughter) was a happy go lucky girl, vibrant and full of life but she became clingy at the age and completely distanced herself from situations she perceived as a risk. She believes all men are predators and a threat to her personal safety. She’s contantly on alert and unable to relax.”
The second victim’s mother said her daughter frequently suffers with recurring nightmares and she often finds her silently weeping in bed. She added: “She’s no longer full of mischief and giggles.”
“Even if she puts on an outfit she feels confident, she’ll go to school and it hits her like a punch, she feels like people are looking at her and it won’t stop. I want to fix this and I can’t. Daily I feel like I’m failing her which is like not being to breathe. She will wring her hands and shut down sometimese. She will stop talking and answering questions, just stares. “
She added: “She used to be the first to join in and now you see her questioning herself and she’s worried about portraying herself wrong. I feel like she has been robbed of part of her life. She has been suffering with bullying but shows zero emotion, her response is just blacked out. It feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest.
“We’ve been ripped apart by this and have dealt with our pain by pushing it down. He has robbed our child and family of trust and love. “
In mitigation, Philip Gibbs asked the court to take into count the defendant’s age, his health and the fact he will spending the later stage of his life in prison away from his wife of 49 years.
Sentencing, Judge Timothy Petts said D’Agnilli was a man of good character, retired from a respectable job and well regarded.
He added: “But as the prosecution put it you were an abuser hiding in plain sight.
“I take the view you have caused all three of your victis severe psychological harm.”
D’Agnilli was sentenced to eight years imprisonment and made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 15 years. He was made subject to notification requirements for life.
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Pubs and restaurants suffer ‘lost Christmas’ as sales plummet South Wales Argus
Pubs and restaurants saw Christmas Day trade plunge by 60% as soaring Covid cases and caution over socialising lost UK hospitality firms £3 billion worth of sales.
Industry bosses said the sector suffered a “lost Christmas” after figures revealed that revenues dropped sharply across the key trading week as customers opted to stay at home
Data from industry body UKHospitality and research firm CGA showed that sales on Christmas Day fell by 60% compared with levels from 2019, while revenues dropped by 31% on Boxing Day and 27% on New Year’s Eve.
Figures also showed that sales across December were 40% lower than during the same month before the pandemic.
Venues in Scotland and Wales were hit worse in the week leading up to New Year, where more stringent restrictions were in place, UK Hospitality said.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive officer of the trade group, described it as a “lost Christmas” for operators and said it showed a “crippling” fall in business.
“December is a vital period for hospitality businesses, equal to three months’ worth of trading for many,” she said.
“These new figures are crippling for an industry already struggling but also spell disaster for the wider UK economic recovery, as ONS figures showed that overall growth in the third quarter of 2021 was driven by hospitality.
“These sales drops versus 2019, and also against our members’ projections before the onset of the new Omicron variant, will have taken most businesses from healthy trading for the month to painful losses, delaying the sector’s recovery and extending hospitality’s long Covid.
“Cash reserves are severely depleted, and some businesses will struggle to survive the first quarter of 2022.”
The poor performance also comes as hospitality firms are braced for cost inflation to soar further, with VAT on food and soft drinks to be hiked back to 20% in April.
Ms Nicholls also intensified industry calls for a permanent reduction of VAT rates to remain at its current level of 12.5%.
Separately, the Office for National Statistics revealed that around 3% of the entire UK workforce was off sick or in self-isolation in late December due to catching Covid-19.
The hardest-hit sectors were in services including hairdressing and other beauty treatments, with absence levels of 7%, the ONS said.
The absence rate for the period between December 29 and January 9 was the highest figure recorded since data has been collected in June 2020 in the Business Insights and Conditions Survey.
It also found more than one in five businesses saw an increase in cancellations from customers in the last month, with 64% in the beauty and hairdressing sector. Around 44% of businesses in hotels and restaurants said they saw an increase.
In an attempt to reassure customers, more than half of businesses said they have increased spending on new safety measures impacting their costs, with 8% saying these costs had increased substantially.
Businesses within the accommodation and food service sectors also revealed they were running out of cash, with 54% saying they had reserves for less than three months trading. In early December the figure was 44% reporting the same.
The data also found that 79% of companies who import products from overseas found trading challenging due to global supply chain issues, while for exporters the figure was 66%.
SYDNEY, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Australia on Thursday reported its biggest pandemic caseload with a runaway Omicron outbreak driving up hospitalisation rates as the surge put severe strain on supply chains forcing authorities to ease quarantine rules for more workers.
After successfully containing the virus earlier in the pandemic, Australia has reported nearly a million cases over the last two weeks as people slowly get adjusted to living with the coronavirus amid fewer restrictions. Total infections detected since the pandemic began neared 1.4 million.
(Don’t Miss: Why you should still try to avoid catching Omicron)
More than 147,000 new cases have been recorded so far on Thursday in Australia, with about 92,000 in the most populous state of New South Wales (NSW), although that includes a backlog of positive at-home results dating back to the beginning of January.
Net new hospital admissions and people admitted to intensive care are at their highest in the pandemic but authorities have said the health systems can cope with the rising cases.
A total of 53 new deaths have been reported so far, with NSW suffering its deadliest day of the pandemic with 22 deaths. But the death rate during the Omicron wave is lower than prior outbreaks in Australia, where more than 92% of people above 16 are double-dosed and a booster drive is ramping up.
Amid pressure on supply chains, Victorian state authorities on Thursday exempted more workers from quarantine requirements for being close contacts. Staff in emergency services, education and transport can go back to work if they are symptom-free.
“There is no quick fix to this,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said during a media conference on Thursday. “These are commonsense changes, they will help but they are not everything, there is no simple solution.”
Victoria’s move comes ahead of a meeting of the national cabinet – the group of federal and state leaders – later on Thursday, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison will propose steps to relieve the pressure on business supply chains.
Queensland state on Thursday decided to fully open its domestic borders for the first time in nearly two years with travellers not required to carry border passes and negative COVID-19 results.
Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Michael Perry
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Social care management software firm Carebeans is setting up an operation in South Wales following a six-figure equity investment round backed by the Development Bank of Wales.
The Cheshire-based firm had also secured investment in the round from Liverpool-based MSIF (previously known as the Merseyside Special Investment Fund.).
The investment will be used to open a new office in Monmouth with new jobs being created and further development of its software. It has also supported the acquisition of software firm Standex Systems.
Carebeans was set up by its chief executive Nick Lawford in 2019. It provides a cloud-based system for residential and nursing care homes and the full spectrum of supported living including domiciliary care, disability, and mental health services.
Mr Lawford said: “This investment is providing a step change in our ability to bring on new customers and accelerate R&D in areas we know will have a big impact across large areas of social care provision in the near future.
“My goal has always been to use great technology to help people live their lives where they want to be with dignity whilst helping care givers provide consistently high-quality support unencumbered by onerous, often disconnected, systems and processes.
“The funding from MSIF and the Development Bank of Wales now accelerates our growth in the social care sectors with the opening of our second office and the recruitment of a highly specialist and skilled team.”
Oliver Wheatley, investment executive in the technology ventures team at the Development Bank of Wales, said: “The digital transformation for the care home and domiciliary care sector provides an opportunity for operators to generate significant operational efficiencies and provide better person-centred care than is achievable with historical paper based systems.
“It’s a really exciting time for the sector which is why we’re pleased to support Carebeans with the development of their competitively priced, end-to-end solution. They have a real understanding of the needs of the sector with a market-leading and scalable offering. We’re looking forward to working with the team and MSIF as co-investors to help drive the growth and future success of the business from their new office here in Wales.”
David Walters, investment manager for MSIF said :“It was clear to the investment team how innovative the software platform is in supporting carers, people receiving care and their families at a time when care in the UK has never been more important. Already the business has diversified into non-age care sectors such as disability and we expect Carebeans to be a key player in the support of domiciliary care in the UK and further abroad.”
Legal support was provided by Brabners for MSIF and Cardiff-based Blake Morgan advised the Development Bank of Wales. Financial modelling was performed by George Wright of the LCR Finance Hub.
Macro view: Omicron outbreak forces lockdown in New South Wales Pharmaceutical Technology
Some economists state that the Omicron outbreak has sparked a de facto lockdown in New South Wales, forcing businesses to shut down due to virus-induced staff absences amid few Covid-19 restrictions and no public health orders in place.
Jim Stanford, economist and director of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, retweeted an article shared by the Australia Institute, on how the Omicron outbreak is smashing Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales. He stated that the economic situations are far worse than an actual lockdown.
Despite few restrictions, the Omicron wave is impacting everything in NSW, right from its healthcare system to the hospitality industry. Analysts from Stanford’s team have predicted cases to peak in mid-January, predicting up to one-third of the workers in NSW to be in isolation in the upcoming weeks.
Surging Covid-19 hospitalisations have led to a burnout among staff, with more than 4,000 frontline health staff having been furloughed due to Covid-19 or due to isolation needs, leading to critical staff shortages across some of the largest hospitals in Sydney.
Alberto Bagnai, economist and associate professor of economic policy at the Gabriele d’Annunzio University, retweeted an interview shared by the European Central Bank (ECB) on pandemic-related special factors having led to unusually low inflation in 2020 and unusually high inflation in 2021. However, Philip R. Lane, chief economist and member of the executive board of the ECB, has stated that 2022 will be a transition stage where high inflation will eventually fade.
Lane stated that he expected the pandemic to end in 2023 and 2024, with inflation stabilising at a lower level, almost at about 1.8%, which is close to the 2% target compared to what the euro area was before the Covid-19 outbreak.
He also emphasised that the inflation rate is currently not going back to its pre-pandemic level, but the euro area has made progress by offering fiscal and monetary support. Therefore, the economic recovery in the following two years will bring inflation closer to the target.
Dani Rodrik, economist at the Harvard Kennedy School, shared an article on how keeping an open mind on unfashionable and unorthodox ideas, and making sure to learn from evidence, applies to the current inflation debates in the US and Turkey. Therefore, he believes that deriding currently unfashionable ideas on inflation as ‘science denial’ similar to rejecting Covid-19 vaccines, as some prominent economists have done, is a misplaced idea.
Rodrik further added that the current Covid-induced inflation in the US and other advanced nations, for example, differs significantly from the 1970s inflation. It is neither chronic till date, nor is driven by wage-price spirals and backward indexation. Therefore, policymakers in developed countries should not be worried over the inflation spike.
The best argument against price controls, therefore, is not that they are incompatible with science, but that nothing radical needs to happen. Likewise, the same caution should apply to central banks being patient before raising interest rates amid a relentless pandemic.
My latest: in economics we need to keep an open mind on unfashionable and unorthodox ideas, and make sure we learn from evidence. How this applies to current inflation debates in US and Turkey. https://t.co/52xleDXiII
— Dani Rodrik (@rodrikdani) January 11, 2022
Plans for Cross Hands Health Centre to go before Welsh Government South Wales Guardian
An Outline Business Case for the development of a Wellbeing Centre to be based in Cross Hands is to be resubmitted to Welsh Government, Hywel Dda University Health Board has revealed.
The business case outlines the health boards intention to develop an integrated health and social care network of services for the Amman Gwendraeth area and the construction of a Wellbeing Centre.
If approved, the centre will provide a base for health and care services which will accommodate two local GP practices – Tumble and Penygroes – a library, family centre, community pharmacy and also community police support officers and voluntary sector groups.
A statement from the health board said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we deliver some health and care services. Hywel Dda University Health Board has been working with partners and stakeholders to refresh the business case for the development to ensure that these continue to be fit for our population’s health and care needs both now and in the future.”
It is anticipated that the Business Case will be resubmitted to Welsh Government in Spring 2022.
Rhian Dawson, Integrated System Director for Hywel Dda University Health Board and Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “I am delighted that we are now able to refocus on the development of the Wellbeing Centre in Cross Hands. This will not only be an asset for Cross Hands but will benefit Carmarthenshire as a whole. While it is unfortunate that the pandemic has delayed our progress, it has also demonstrated the importance of delivering services as close to home as possible.”
It is anticipated that the centre could potentially be complete in 36 months from the approval of the Outline Business case.
New Managing Director at Quantuma’s South West and Wales Regional Office Business News Wales
Business advisory firm Quantuma has appointed new managing director Tim Sloggett, to further strengthen its offering in the South West and Wales region. Tim helps businesses that are underperforming and/or facing a cash flow crisis.
Sloggett brings with him more than 20 years’ experience of helping businesses that are underperforming or facing a crisis, across a range of sectors and from local owner-managed businesses to large international corporates.
He has spent most of his career working in Big Four firms, as well as five years at Barclays Bank in its turnaround and restructuring team. Sloggett has a wealth of experience in delivering different solutions across a wide range of stakeholder groups and challenging situations. He is known for his collaborative and flexible approach and unique breadth of experience.
Louise Durkan, head of the firm’s national financial advisory team, also takes over as head of the region following the retirement of outgoing head, Graham Randall. Louise and Tim previously worked together at Deloitte and are joining forces again to bring together their complimentary skills and ambitions to deliver the best solutions for clients.
Tim Sloggett, managing director at Quantuma, said:
“This is a really exciting time to be joining Quantuma, helping it to continue the impressive growth journey and expand its capabilities. It is inevitable that businesses are going to need vital support in the coming months and years as they face unprecedent challenges from the pandemic and Brexit. Quantuma provides me with a great platform to bring my passion and experience to support businesses in the region to get through these challenges.”
Louise Durkan, managing director and head of South West and Wales at Quantuma, said:
“The arrival of Tim is an exciting addition to our team as he brings with him extensive experience and expertise across the full spectrum of advisory, turnaround, and restructuring work. Tim’s appointment helps us to further strengthen our position as one of the leading advisory practices and I am delighted to be leading the team through our next phase of growth.”
Newport projects set to spend £2.8m on community renewal South Wales Argus
PROJECTS to improve the look of Newport and bring more jobs into the city are set to receive nearly £2.8 million funding this week.
Newport City Council is expected to finalise the awarding of the pot, from the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund, today, Tuesday.
Seven organisations in the city were successful in bidding for a share of the cash, which they will spend on projects over the next six months.
Many of those initiatives will focus on improving skills and employment opportunities, especially for younger people in Newport.
Others will aim to breathe new life into city neighbourhoods by improving green spaces and reviving empty commercial properties.
The Community Renewal Fund, launched last March, invited councils around the UK to bid for a share of funding to support their local communities and economies. Each council could apply for up to £3 million for private and public sector projects.
You can read more about how the five councils in the Gwent area will be spending their share of the pot here – but let’s take a look in more details at the seven successful projects in the Newport area:
Foot in the Door is aimed at building on South East Wales’ blossoming film and TV industry, and will focus on giving 300 people in the Newport area better access to jobs and skills connected to this sector. Run by Ffilm Cymru Wales, the project is due to be awarded £841,000 from the Community Renewal Fund.
The Welsh Institute of Digital Information (WIDI) wants to invest in its research and development centre at the University of South Wales’ Newport campus. It is due to receive £730,000 from the funding pot, which it will spend on advancing health research and building a prototype Digital Health Village, as well as working on artificial intelligence tools for medical care.
The Newport 360 project is designed to “upskill” people in the city who are not currently “economically active”. Run by the organisation Volunteering Matters, the project aims to work with local businesses and “diversify” their hiring policies, as well as giving prospective workers better training for finding jobs, building their CVs and interview skills. The scheme has been awarded £400,000 from the UK Government fund.
The Sgiliau project, run by TGP Cymru, will receive £328,000 to provide education and job opportunities to young people aged 16-25 who have been in care and are currently not in education, employment or training. The project will “improve and enhance their prospects” of finding a place in education or training, as well as “appropriate housing and support”, the council said.
Young Enterprise Newport is another scheme geared towards helping younger adults find work. Run by Business in Focus, the project is set to receive £213,000 funding, and will work with young people and women entrepreneurs on a pilot scheme for developing business skills.
Greening Maindee will continue its work to renovate that city neighbourhood by conducting a new feasibility study for future improvements. The project is run by Maindee Unlimited, the charity behind schemes like the renovation of Maindee Triangle, where a disused public toilet block is being transformed into a cafe.
It has been awarded £173,000 by the UK Government to continue its work, looking at other ways to develop Maindee into a greener, more sustainable area that also tie into wider plans for promoting active travel and public transport.
Finally, the Business Support in Pillgwenlly project has been awarded £59,000 for the economic regeneration of the Pill area of Newport.
The scheme, by Pobl Cymru, will support high-street traders in a coordinated plan to bring empty shops back into us, create jobs and apprenticeships, organise events and develop a business support package for new and existing ventures.
Each of the organisations to receive funding will be expected to deliver their projects by the end of June.
Building industry must pay to remove dangerous cladding, says Gove South Wales Argus
The Government will take “every step necessary” to ensure the building industry fixes the problem of dangerous cladding blighting thousands of leaseholders in medium rise blocks, Michael Gove has said.
Four and half years after the Grenfell fire exposed the dangers of cladding, the Housing Secretary said that no leaseholder living in a block above 11 metres would have to pay for fixing dangerous problems.
He confirmed that he had “an absolute assurance” from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that he was ready to impose taxes on the sector if they were not prepared to come forward with a solution.
“We will take action to end this scandal and protect leaseholders,” he said.
“We will make industry pay to fix all the remaining problems and help to cover range of costs facing leaseholders.
“Those who manufactured combustible cladding and insulation – many of whom have made vast profits, even at the height of the pandemic – they must pay now instead of leaseholders.”
Mr Gove said while he was seeking to convene a meeting with industry to find an agreed way, he was ready if necessary to “impose a solution on them in law” to cover the estimated £4 billion costs to deal with the issue.
“We do need to have additional backstops and it is clear that taxes can, if necessary, play (a part). I don’t want to move there but we do have the absolute assurance that we can use the prospect of taxation to bring people to the table,” he said.
“The fact that the (Treasury) Chief Secretary (Simon Clarke) and the Chancellor have authorised me to use the prospect of taxation, shows that we are prepared to take every step necessary.”
However, shadow housing secretary, Lisa Nandy, said that a leaked letter from Mr Clarke showed he had warned that a decision to impose new taxes was “not a given at this point”.
“It appears what he’s told the public – that tax rises are the backstop – is not what he’s told the Treasury,” she said.
“Has the Chancellor agreed to back a new tax measure if negotiations fail or is he prepared to see his own already allocated budgets, levelling-up funding, or monies for social or affordable funding, raided?”
In a significant U-turn, Mr Gove confirmed that leaseholders in buildings between 11m to 18m would no longer have to take out loans to pay for removing cladding, bringing them in line those in high-rise blocks.
“Leaseholders are shouldering a desperately unfair burden. They are blameless and it is morally wrong that they are the ones who should be asked to pay the price,” he said.
Mr Gove said he had established a dedicated team within the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to expose and pursue the firms responsible.
At the same time, he said, he was revising the safety rules for medium rise blocks with greater use of “sensible mitigations” such as sprinklers and fire alarms in place of “unnecessary and costly” remediation work.
The End Our Cladding Scandal welcomed Mr Gove’s revised approach but said his talk needed to be backed by “tough action”.
“It is clear from a leaked Treasury letter over the weekend that Chancellor Rishi Sunak still does not appear to understand the gravity of our situation and is seemingly doing all he can to evade ensuring homeowners are protected,” it said in a statement.
The Grenfell United campaign group, representing survivors and the bereaved, said the change of approach was long overdue.
“The success of this change of tactic remains to be seen. When the reliance is put on those responsible to come forward and provide funds to fix it, our experience gives us little faith,” it said.
However, David O’Leary, policy director at the Home Builders Federation, said the solution needed to go beyond developers and builders.
“We are keen to work with the Government – and we have (been) throughout the process – to find solutions. We would like to see other sectors brought into the discussion as well,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
“There are questions to be asked about the product manufacturing sector. Clearly there are some issues with testing and the testing regime on products on which we are reliant.
“This a conversation that needs to go beyond property developers.”
Wilko announces plans to shut two Welsh stores Wales Online
High street giant Wilko has confirmed major store closures as a result of the pandemic which will affect stores and staff in south Wales.
More than 300 people are likely to lose their jobs at stores across the UK, including in Llanelli and its branch in the St Tydfil Square Shopping Centre store in Merthyr with both stores lined up for closure this summer.
They are two of 15 stores in the UK which are likely to close, with at least 300 jobs projected to be lost by union GMB. All 15 are planned to close by January 2023, while the Llanelli store will close in August and the Merthyr store in September.
Each store will have a 30-day consultation period while permanent recruitment in the vicinity of each site will freeze. Wilko has said the planned closures are not final and negotiations for any of the stores penned for closure could reopen.
The store planned to close in Llanelli is in the Market Precinct while the Merthyr store set to close is on Newmarket Walk.
CEO Jerome Saint-Marc said: “Our history is steeped in serving our customers and communities going back to 1930 but there’s no denying the way people shop with us and where they want to shop with us is changing.
“As a business we’re evolving and this includes working with landlords for more favourable terms, as well as looking at locations and store formats.
“We’ll continue to pull together to make our business better to secure the future of over 16,000 team members.
“We’ll be doing everything we can to support our affected team members who will be offered any available positions in nearby stores.”
It is another significant blow to Llanelli which has lost an array of stores in recent years. You can read more about its plight here.
Roger Jenkins, GMB National Officer, called the news “devastating”.
“These closures are devastating for Wilko workers and the communities who use them,” he said. “It’s yet another nail in the high street’s coffin and GMB calls on councils and landlords to review commercial leases and offer lower rents.
“Empty high streets and shopping centres are in no one’s interest but with 400 shops a week closing, this is inevitable – unless the costs of premises can be reduced. GMB will now meet with Wilko members to discuss our next steps.”
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