A TOWN council, slammed for continuing to display a portrait of former mayor, and child rapist, David Boswell, will not remove the picture.

The mayoral portrait was on display in Pembroke Town Hall, amongst other former mayors, more than a year after Boswell was found guilty of raping one girl and indecently assaulting another when they were both aged under 10.

He was jailed for 18 years in 2018 for historic child sex offences, pre-dating his time as mayor and county councillor.

The portrait of the disgraced former mayor was seen on display in the town hall in January.

At the February 13 meeting of Pembroke Town Council, members rejected an impassioned plea by Councillor Jon Harvey for it to be removed permanently, deciding instead the picture should be turned to face the wall.

That decision was made in a recorded vote, with just two members of 15 favouring its removal for at least a lifetime; one, Cllr Harvey, immediately resigning over its failure to be removed.

Some members of the town council also expressed their anger that the issue had been made public, one even calling for the editor of the Western Telegraph to publicly apologise for publishing the concerns raised.

Pembroke resident Marcel Laval, who previously stood for the St Mary North town council seat vacated by Boswell, raised the issue back in January: “I find it disgusting that Pembroke Town Council are convinced they should hang a portrait of their convicted paedophile ex-mayor Dai Boswell in a place of honour alongside other former mayors to be admired by the public.”

After the issue was raised with the town council by the Western Telegraph, the picture was temporarily removed from the town hall, the council responding five days later.

At the February 13 meeting Mayor Gareth Jones later said he took responsibility for its temporary removal before further discussion at the February meeting.

At the meeting, a rare full house of all 15 members present, Cllr Harvey, who has called for the permanent removal of the portrait, said: “Yes, we can argue the history element, but this is a case of a former mayor that has been convicted of rape; a massive disservice to the community if it is on display.

“I would like it not on display for a number of years, 50 or 60, perhaps 100. I would also remove a number of historic Facebook posts [on the town council page] showing the former mayor; they should be removed.

“It is not acceptable that we should have a picture of a child rapist on our wall.”

Cllr Harvey was told the pictures had been removed from the Facebook page.

Cllr Aden Brinn, the only other councillor to back Cllr Harvey in the later vote, said: “With the serious offence that has been committed by this individual, and the sentencing, and the public outrage, I would support it being left out.”

Fellow councillors expressed their disgust at Boswell’s crimes, with Cllr Melanie Phillips said: “How far do we go with this? I’m not condoning Boswell, but we have a fraudster and a murderer on the wall,” adding: “a timeline is compromised, we get the bad and the ugly; otherwise how would you know what Vlad the Impaler or Ivan the Terrible looked like?”

Cllr Jon Nutting, in a prepared statement, railed against the story being reported: “I am very concerned about how this has been handled, it has been very public,” describing the “sensationalism” of it being reported in the press as “disgraceful”.

He hit out at a “small group of people” sharing the issue on social media, adding there was “no need to make it so very public,” describing it being publicised as solely “to bash and undermine this council”.

He said he was not aware the portrait was up, but said leaving it up would be “testament to the shame our council and community share”.

He added: “The condemnation we have received has been disgraceful.

“I abhor paedophilia, it makes me physically sick what that man did; this has slammed the problem and the experiences they have had right back at them; this should never have happened, it should have been dealt with sensitively and with thought.”

He suggested an alternative to the portrait’s removal.

“I think his picture should be turned around and ‘Boswell’ put on it, so people ask about it. We are here to bear witness so that something like that never happens again.”

He later officially proposed: “The picture of Boswell stays up as a testament; that the picture is turned around to show we abhor his acts, as a reminder so people ask why one picture is turned, and the story is told…”

Councillor Dennis Evans felt the press should apologise for making the issue public and using comments made by Mr Laval.

“It seems to me as if we are trying to be bullied into making a decision we might not want to make.

“It gives the impression that we, as a council, celebrate him being there.”

He described the comments made by Mr Laval as libellous.

“I’ve heard rumours that people want us to give a public apology; it should be the other way around, the editor of the Western Telegraph should be giving us a public apology.”

Councillor Daphne Bush, who later said that photographs of Boswell should not be used in any press reports, suggested the matter “could be dealt with a lot more diplomatically,” adding: “There are relatives of this man around, they are human beings; this should’ve been dealt with so much more privately and shouldn’t be on our agenda.”

Cllr Aaron Carey said he had been swayed by Cllr Nutting’s proposal.

Referencing the need to remember the Holocaust, he said: “I don’t like the idea of sweeping this from history. I do like the idea of turning this around; would you like to walk in there [the town hall’s museum] and see this face grinning at you?”

In a recorded vote on whether the picture be turned around, an amendment on an original call for the picture to be removed, only two voted against, favouring its removal.

Those voting for the picture to be merely turned around were: Gareth Jones, Linda Asman, Jon Nutting, Dennis Evans, Melanie Phillips, Adrian Cooke, Linda Brown, Keith Nicholas, Aaron Carey, Jonathan Grimes, Daphne Bush, Rosemarie Blackburn, and Clive Collins.

Voting against were: Jon Harvey and Aiden Brinn.

Following the vote, Cllr Harvey, who also serves as a county councillor, said: “On that basis I will be tendering my resignation, that is a personal view,” leaving the meeting.

A question and answer session with members of the public present was held after the decision, a departure from its published agenda placing before the discussion on the portrait was then held.

Member of the public Marcel Laval, who had raised the issue in the first place, was then allowed to speak on the matter after a decision had been made.

Mr Laval said: “Not one question has been answered; there is a chamber here of people that have not answered any questions.”

Mayor Gareth Jones said no decision had been taken to remove or put up the picture, it being mistakenly replaced when several pictures had fallen down while work was being undertaken.

Cllr Jones said he had personally taken the decision to remove the picture as an interim measure.

Mr Laval, after asking why the picture had remained on display, was told that no special meeting to discuss its removal had taken place, as no-one had thought about it, and oversight.

Lyn Edwards, who had previously stood in the county council seat made vacant by Boswell’s conviction, said: “The message from the street is they were appalled by the way it was handled, the way social media and the press ran away with it.”

She suggested that social media and the press raising the issue caused distress not only to Boswell’s victims, but also made it difficult for other such victims to come forward.

Cllr Nutting later suggested the reversal of the picture be reviewed at a later date.

Posting on social media after the meeting, Mr Laval said: “When I eventually was so graciously allowed to speak it was after they had decided and voted, so no bearing or weight was given to the public’s views.”

He added: “There was more outrage in several councillors at my original posting on the matter than at their abject failure to consider anyone except themselves.

“The clear and repeated message from a number of town councillors was that ‘it could have been dealt with in the council in a more private way’ and that the victims should not have to be subject to any public concerns over the matter, get that big rug out so we can sweep away.

“Though none of the questions I put to the chamber were actually answered and the recorded vote on Councillor Nutting’s pleas for the portrait to remain in reverse motion was adopted by the majority of these town councillors in reverence to history.”

He went on to say: “I can only say in conclusion there will be no apology, a lot of faux outrage at anyone who dares to challenge their opinions yes, but no apology for the disgraceful attitudes to the wider public.

“I applaud Councillor Jon Harvey for bearing witness to his principles and resigning immediately upon the outcome of the recorded vote to maintain ‘history’.”