Tuesday, 28 August 2012

FLAWS .....

Many people – not just political opponents – have asked why the Labour Party, having opposed the creation of the Police and Crime Commissioner job, is now working full on to ensure that Labour candidates are elected.

It’s a fair question.

The simple answer is that our supporters and members are unwilling to give other political parties a free ride to positions of local influence and power over issues that matter to everyone.

We’d have preferred the estimated £100m cost of the changes go to fund 3000 police officers.

But there’s more to it than that.

Laws and regulations to bring in elected Commissioners for Police and Crime are flawed and they’re beginning to show.

Some were clear from the outset. Holding an election in the middle of November, rather than early May - when regular local elections take place – will, predictably, mean fewer people voting. It exposes as hollow Conservative claims to champion localism that they opted to have an election when dark winter days can be expected to reduce turnout.


Elections are about choice – that’s why candidates in UK parliament and European elections have an election leaflet setting out their policies delivered free to each household. Yet despite having a local electorate many times greater than any MP, this will not apply to Police and Crime Commissioners.

In many areas, people with the chance to read policy leaflets from all candidates standing in their area may be the lucky few.

The Coalition says it wants to make the priorities and costs of policing and crime more accountable to the public in each locality.  Yet they’re content to sacrifice electors entitlement to make an informed choice.

 At the same time – if turnout is low – they’ve weakened the mandate that anyone elected to represent local people needs.


….and more flaws

Three would-be Police and Crime Commissioners have already stood down, exposing once again how the Coalition fails to think through and implement their plans competently.

Falklands hero and former Welsh guardsman, Simon Weston withdrew when it emerged that a criminal conviction – a £30 fine he received as a 14 year old for being a passenger in a stolen car could disbar him.  He has consistently claimed that he didn’t know the car was stolen at the time but was advised to plead guilty.

Bob Ashford who had Whitehall security clearance and has worked as a director of the Youth Justice Board for 10 years has withdrawn after being told that two fines (of £2 and 10 shillings) he received for trespassing and possession of an offensive weapon as a 13 year old, mean he’s disqualified. He claims he never touched the air rifle which belonged to the boys he was with, was interviewed without his parents present and, again, was later advised to plead guilty in court.

 In 1965, Alan Charles was given a year’s conditional discharge for a non-violent crime as a 14 year old.  He’s the Vice-Chair of Derbyshire Police Authority.  He was advised he was disbarred to stand for election - but has subsequently been reinstated as a candidate.

Regardless of their politics, all are able, high quality candidates, with strong track records of public service and good prospects of success. In Simon Weston’s case it was ‘getting into bother’ that directly led to him joining the Welsh Guards as a 16 year old and serving his country in combat.

Then the Home Office confirmed that a juvenile conviction for imprisonable offences – nearly 50 years ago - bars people from becoming a police and crime commissioner.
People who were not imprisoned yet now they won’t even make the starting line – sad, unnecessary and discouraging.

Sadder still is what this says about the attitude of many legislators – across all parties - to young people about crime and rehabilitation.

These three people are living proof that perhaps a shaky start in life doesn’t have to lead to a life of crime. They’re three people whose personal experience and insights on the troubled years of teenagers offers immense value in helping youngsters to flourish.

Despite successfully turning around their circumstances and contributing, as volunteers, to improving the lives of their fellows, they’re still labelled as unworthy for public office.

That’s disgraceful.

We need a criminal justice system with institutions and policies that support and encourage what these 3 former candidates have done with their lives - not pointless lifelong penalties.

To help bring that about is just one reason I’m offering myself as a candidate.


Friday, 24 August 2012


24th August 2012

November’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections are set to be a disaster. The Electoral Reform Society has predicted a record low turnout of 18.5%. Here in Suffolk in the May local elections we saw low voter turnout between 20% to 25% Quite simply, if the people elected to reconnect the public and the police do not represent local people, what is the point of having them?

As the Labour PCC candidate in Suffolk I & my Labour colleagues have been actively knocking on doors and attending street stalls to raise awareness over the last few months.We have been promoting the use of postal votes and taking our responsiblity for raising awareness in the name of democracy very seriously.

 In addition to this I have been getting letters published & using Social media to inform as widely as I am able to. The majority of those I speak to know nothing about it. I believe in the concept of a democratic mandate, particularly in relation to accountability to local people by the police service - but local people need to be informed in order to make informed decisions.

I know a publicity campaign is planned but it will be a generic one & I am anxious that not everyone will be targetted - including those who have the most interest in how they are policedand/or when victims of crime. I am seeing websites being set up that declare themselves as the place where candidiates should place their information. This along with the responsiblities of the Electoral Services Commission, may only end up fragmenting information & ultimately confusing the electorate.

There is still time for change. We need to see:   
• Candidates of all parties and independents being given the opportunity to make their case to voters. The Electoral Commission recently announced they would send a mailing to every household to let people know the elections are taking place. It is simply common sense to include local information on candidates so that people know who they can vote for.

• Public Service Broadcasts. We know political broadcasts boost turnout, they should be part of the government’s package of awareness raising.

• May Elections. The Government must pledge never to hold a major election in the winter again. You can improve turnout and reduce costs in one fell swoop.

Whilst all political parties agreed there was a need for police reform, this is not necessarily the right way to go about engaging people to buy into a reform that will fundamentally change the policing & community safety landscape forever. Your government led the call for elected Police Commissioners so I urge you to bring your vision to life to local people by doing these 3 things.


Tuesday, 14 August 2012


I have heard it said that some crimes are categorised as ‘victimless’ and this is particularly true of crimes that target the business community. The word victim for many of us can be very emotive based on our experiences and perspectives.
 When Business Crime is discussed in my experience it centres on the fact that most businesses are insured. That is often the end of the conversation.

We do not very often hear about the poorly paid shop managers whose job depends on effective stock control, including reducing the risk of shoplifting. The stress & pressure of knowing you could be sacked because of stock losses cannot be underestimated.
Nor do we hear much about petrol station staff, working long & unsocial hours and the impact on them of theft of petrol from garage forecourts. Not only does such theft leave staff feeling vulnerable many also face lawful deductions from their salary by their employer to compensate the business for the loss.

We hear quite a lot about metal theft here in Suffolk. What we don’t hear about is the emotional & financial impact of such thefts. The theft of lead from a church roof for example very often results in more damage to cherished buildings & is expensive to replace. It also causes real anxiety and increases fear of crime amongst local people.

We hear too of tools and machinery theft, from urban and rural business premises, including farms. Again these thefts are often incredibly stressful for those involved, resulting in increased fear and in some cases businesses cease.

Rural businesses and farms are particularly vulnerable to arson attacks and the Arson Prevention Bureau report stated that around 1,700 buildings and 66,000 acres of grassland are destroyed by fire in UK farms every year. Arson attacks are particularly traumatic for those involved.

But what of the wider impact on all of us. The BritishRetail Consortium suggests that retail crime costs every household an extra £90 each year on their shopping bills. Increased security measures whether electronic or human come at a cost. The impact of crime against small shops who may ultimately have to close, means a reduction of choice and shopping access in more disadvantaged communities.

Theft of metal or machinery means insurance premiums rise, and at a time of a double dip recession there are many businesses and individuals who are quite simply unable to afford these increases.
There are many other crimes impacting on Business and with even wider social implications such as cyber crime, counterfeiting and forgery. The British Crime Survey 2010/2011(now the Crime Survey for England & Wales) showed credit card & bank fraud are crimes the public think are increasing the most.

The list though is endless and constantly changing with new technology.  Additionally the crimes workers experience outside the work place such as burglaries, violent assaults, hate crime, domestic abuse also impact on business in terms of productivity and working time lost.
Some business crime is attributal to organised gangs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency estimates there are 2,800 organised crime groups operating across England & Wales, costing the economy up to £40 billion a year.

Suffolk needs a Police and Crime Commissioner with a whole range of skills and a holistic victim centred overview of all types of crime. I believe I bring valuable insights having worked in the private sector for many years for large organisations such as Tesco, Greene King  and Mothercare.

I am committed to ensuring that investment into specialist units & skilled officers & staff in Suffolk to combat this type of crime remains. Suffolk does not police in a vacuum. Relationships and partnership working with the business community, volunteer Watch & victim support schemes are vital. So too is working with the new National Crime Agency and Police Professional Body. Business of all sizes need to have confidence in the police that their issues matter and that the great work of the Suffolk Business Crime Forum will continue & develop.

I do not believe that there is such a thing as a victimless crime. Do you?