I just knew the Chief Constable could square the circle on knife crime – sort of

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26 March 2019

In the blog below (17 March 2019 ) I wondered why Anthony Stansfield, the Police and Crime Commissioner, said stop and searches in Thames Valley were up - while Francis Hapgood, the Chief Constable, said they were down. So I asked them if they could explain it.

Mr Hapsgood’s explanation is below. Mr Hapgood retires today so I am very grateful for his response and wish him a happy retirement.

In short, Mr Hapgood says the number of stop and searches has dropped over the years but has increased recently and become more effective.

Well, we will have to wait and see whether that is borne out when and if the statistics are published.

In the meantime, we can see that there is plenty of room for improvement as only 16% of stop and searches conducted under PACE Section 1 led to an arrest in 2017/8.

We also know that stop and searches affect people from different ethnic backgrounds disproportionally. People from black backgrounds were stopped and searched at approximately five-and-a-half times the rate of whites in 2017/18 in the Thames Valley region, an increase on the previous year where it was around four-and-a-half times the rate of whites.

Searches of people from Asian backgrounds also rose from twice the rate of whites to just over three times the rate, similar to those from mixed backgrounds.

People from Chinese or other minority ethnic groups are half as likely to be stopped and searched compared with their white counterparts.

So stop and searches are a mixed blessing; they may or may not be effective in stopping crime but they discriminate.

But, isn’t the real solution to provide the police – and all the other agencies – with the resources to tackle the causes of knife crime rather than arresting people with a knife?

Dear Ms Derrick

Thank you for your e-mail. I am not sure if Anthony Stansfeld has already replied but I will offer my response to your question.

In recent years the number of stop and searches across Thames Valley has dropped (in line with the national picture). But more recently we have seen increases in the numbers in response to the current threats around county drugs lines, and the associated carrying of weapons by some of those involved.

Whilst the numbers have dropped we have seen an increasing focus in the target areas and according to the latest threats, so we have seen the number of positive outcomes increasing. Stop and search is an important tactic which is supported by the public if used in an intelligent and focused way. Although I don’t have the data to hand I do suspect that we will have seen an increasing number of seizures recently, which supports the point made by Mr Stansfeld.

So in summary I think the two comments are not contradictory, we are making slightly different points.

Yours sincerely Francis Habgood | Chief Constable | Thames Valley Police  

Thames Valley’s Police and Crime Commissioner contradicts his Chief Constable on knife crime

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17 March 2019

I sent my blog about the increase in knife crime (see blog of 12 March below) to Anthony Stansfeld, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, and to Francis Habgood, the Chief Constable.

This is Mr Stansfeld’s response:-

"Dear Linda,

I do not disagree, but that is only a part of the problem. Loose border control, not enough being done to stop the distribution from our major cities to smaller towns and rural areas, and too many liberally minded well off people taking drugs and failing to realise the criminality they are causing. They are a large part of the market without which there would not be the scale of drug trafficking. This seem prevalent especially in Oxford where there have been two murders of people who were both from outside our area and involved in gang fights.

here are too few police officers, but that is only a small part of the problem in TVP with drug trafficking. The problem is that when we arrest traffickers they are immediately replaced. Most are from major cities and are considered expendable by the gangs that run them. Many are under-aged children who are vulnerable and exploited themselves.

The knife crime figures have gone up, but that is largely because we are stopping and searching more people, and finding knives on them. It is not necessarily because there are more knives, or that they have been used more, rather TVP is becoming more effective at prevention,

Yours sincerely

Anthony Stansfeld "

 

Now you can speculate all you like about the causes of knife crime. I wonder for example what Mr Stansfeld means “by loose border control” as being part of the problem? Does he mean that more knives are getting into the UK illegally from abroad – or more drugs – or more criminals who use knives? Who knows?

And are “liberally minded well off people” really to blame for the rise in knife crime?

However, there is one part of his response that I could check. Mr Stansfeld says the knife crime figures have gone up because the police are stopping and searching more people and finding knives on them.

Well I’m sorry to have to contradict the Police and Crime Commissioner but stop and search in Thames Valley has dropped considerably in recent years.

If Mr Stansfeld doesn’t believe me, perhaps he’ll believe his Chief Constable because this is exactly what Mr Habgood said a week ago (see link below).

The statistics for stop and search on TVP’s website only go up to 2017 but there is an excellent website called Stop Watch which provides figure up to March 2018. This shows there has been a fall in stop and search in the Thames Valley of 56% over the past two years.

Only 11% of these searches involved offensive weapons; most involved low level cannabis possession.

So I’m afraid Mr Stansfeld’s explanation for the rise in knive crime is complete nonsense. (And perhaps I ought to remind you that Mr Stansfeld gets £86,700 a year – a substantial salary for someone who doesn’t know what he is talking about. And a substantial sum of money which could be otherwise used to employ police officers who could help to tackle knife crime.)

Mr Stansfeld’s Chief Constable also disagrees with him on the impact of the cuts in police numbers. Mr Stansfeld says that

“There are too few police officers, but that is only a small part of the problem in TVP… “

On the other hand, Mr Habgood pointed out that since 2010 TVP had been required to make cuts of more than £100m and had lost 1,000 officers and staff. He said it was common sense that cuts in officer numbers were linked to knife crime. He added

"if you have got less people enforcing the law, providing that visible presence, able to respond when things happen and investigate things, then of course it is going to have an impact on our ability to deal with issues like knife crime".

The Chief Constable said TVP was "stretched to a level which is uncomfortable".

So you can believe Mr Stansfeld or the Chief Constable. But my money is on the Chief Constable.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-47495216?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c8nq32jw85jt/thames-valley-police&link_location=live-reporting-story

http://www.stop-watch.org/your-area/area/thames-valley

Knife crime in Thames Valley is up again

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12 March 2019

I’ve blogged about the increase in knife crime before (see blog of 1 December 2017 below). However, I thought it is worth looking again at the latest crime statistics which were published on 11 March.

Here are the statistics for Thames Valley:-

Total recorded crime has gone up by 9% for the year ending September 2018 compared to year ending September 2017 (national increase 8%).

Violence against the person in Thames Valley has gone up by a staggering 35% (national increase 19%).

Offences involving a knife have gone up 18% (national increase 13%).

There’s been a lot of debate about the rise in knife crime. I think the general consensus (apart from the Prime Minister) is that one of the causes is the reduction in police resources and officers.

Other suggested causes are:

- Cuts to benefits and rising child poverty

- Cuts to mental health services for young people

- Cuts to the support and counselling for young people in schools

- The increase in exclusions from schools - Cuts to support for those with substance addiction

- Inadequate Children’s Services with an increasing number of children and young people in care

- A rise in homelessness for young people

- Cuts to youth services

- Poor probation services

- Poor rehabilitation in prisons. Aylesbury Young Offenders Institution, for example, is now in special measures. Young prisoners are spending 23 hours a day in their cells rather than being helped to turn their lives around.

Take your pick of the causes. I think they are all a factor in rising crime and particularly violent crime and knife crime.

All of these causes can be found in Bucks and you can find most of them recorded on this blogsite.

So it is no surprise to me that knife crime is rising. The root cause is known as austerity – an ideology which has been pursued by Conservative Governments for eight years with no sign of it stopping.

So my assumption is that crime will continue to increase. And for those who think this doesn’t affect them – robberies are up again, this time by 29%. Perhaps Bucks is not quite as safe as it used to be.

Why is the probation service in Bucks run and controlled by Spanish and American companies?

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22 January 2019

Two questions for today’s blog:- a) who runs and controls the probation service in Bucks, and

b) how is it performing?

The short answers are:-

a) multinational companies in Spain and America, and

b) it requires improvement.

Anyone surprised? Just par for the course really. But you still have to ask why.

 

Here are the long answers.

But first a bit of background. The organisation of the probation service has been changed many times since the Conservatives came to power. Originally run entirely by the public sector, it was then put in the hands of 35 probation “trusts”.

Then in 2014, Chris Grayling, then Justice Secretary changed it all again. He took the management of high risk offenders back into the public sector but contracted out the low-to-medium risk offenders to 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) on a payment by results approach.

3 years later, the Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, said Chris Grayling had created a “two-tier and fragmented” probation system; while the performance of the publicly-run national probation service was rated good, the majority of the private sector CRCs were struggling to deliver.

Tens of thousands of offenders (40% of the total) were being supervised by a single phone call every 6 weeks instead of face-to-face meetings.

No surprise – just remember this is Failing Grayling who made the changes.

Last year, Parliament’s Justice Committee issued a report on the probation service. Its Chairman, Conservative MP Robert Neill, said the part-privatisation was a mess and would probably never work.

The Government has had to bail out the CRCs to the tune of half a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money.

The eight private firms that run the CRCs are to have their contracts terminated next year, two years earlier than agreed.

However, the Government insists that it has learnt it lessons, and it will be putting out new contracts to the private sector in 2020.

All perfectly normal - privatisation creates a mess, costs a lot of money and the Government carries on and learns nothing.

 

But what is happening in Bucks?

You may find is helpful to look at the chart below.  (Yes, it’s a bit amateurish. But then I am an amateur). 

The probation service in Bucks, Berks and Oxon is run by a company called Thames Valley CRC under a contract with the Government.

The latest financial report for Thames Valley CRC (up to Dec 2017) says it had a turnover of £14.4 million (the payment under the Government contract). It made a profit before tax of £2.2 million and after tax of £1.8 million (double the profit on the previous year).

This is a 12% profit on turnover, with very little capital investment – so not a bad deal for the company.

This is also £2.2 million which could have been re-invested in the probation service or other public sector services instead of going to the shareholders – so not a good deal for the taxpayer.

Nor does the taxpayer get a good service for the money. Thames Valley CRC’s performance “requires improvement”.

Thames Valley CRC and London CRC are owned by a company called MTCnovo. It had a turnover of nearly £100 million and a profit after tax of £3.5 million.

MTCnovo in its turn is part owned by Management and Training Corporation (UK) Ltd and (until 2 weeks ago) by a company called Novo Community Ltd.

MTC (UK) Ltd was set up in 2004 and seems to have been dormant until 2014. It then made a loss of over £750 K in 2015 and over £2.5 million in 2016. It was struck off the register in 2017 and then restored in 2018. It made a profit of nearly £1 million in 2017.

It seems to be the beneficiary of a £23 million loan from its parent company and has in turn loaned £15 million to MTC novo.

MTC (UK) Ltd is owned by MTC, an American company based in Utah. It manages private prisons in the States. It has a history of ….well read for yourself if you are interested at the link below.

It looks as though MTC has the controlling interest in MTCnovo and hence the Thames Valley and London CRCs. All of the directors of MTC (UK) Ltd are based in Utah, USA and the same directors are the directors of MTCnovo (with the addition of a British Secretary).

Meanwhile, MTCnovo is also owned by Novo Community Ltd, a holding and investment company. In 2017, it gave out £10 million in loans and made no profit.

[To be honest, I can’t understand which company has loaned what to which other company at what rate of interest. I gave up trying.]

Novo Community Ltd in turn is owned by Amey UK plc. The ultimate parent company is Feruvial SA which is a multinational company incorporated in Spain, with about £8 billion euros of assets and 100,000 employees.

So there you have it- the probation service is run and controlled by multinational companies in Spain and America.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Management_and_Training_Corporation

Good luck if you need legal aid in Bucks

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8 January 2019

According to the Government’s Legal Aid Agency, there are between two and five solicitors in Wycombe and South Bucks dealing with family law and accepting legal aid cases; there is only one solicitor in Aylesbury Vale dealing with family law and accepting legal aid cases.

According to the Agency, there is no solicitor anywhere in Bucks dealing in housing matters or welfare benefits and accepting legal aid cases.

If you are poor and need legal aid, you have been hit three ways by the Conservative Government.

First, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) wholly or partially removed areas of law such as housing, debt, welfare benefits, immigration and private family law from the scope of legal aid.

Second, eligibility for legal aid is restricted to those whose income is very low; people can be on benefits and still not be eligible for legal aid.

Third, the Government cut the rate of payment for legal aid to lawyers. This means that legal aid lawyers cannot pay their way and opt out of the legal aid system. So even if you are eligible for legal aid, you will have a hard time finding someone to take your case if you live in Bucks.

 

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a few quotes that plot the story.

“The law is like The Ritz; those who can afford to pay have access; those who can’t, don’t.” Arthur Skeffington, Labour MP, 1949, before legal aid was introduced.

“If a person with a potential claim cannot get legal aid….and the claim is dropped - that is a rank denial of justice and a blot on the rule of law.” Lord Neuberger, President of the UK Supreme Court, 2013, after the introduction of the Government’s restrictions on legal aid.

“The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) has resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people being denied meaningful access to justice. This is a picture of justice denied; of ordinary people cut off from the justice system.” Young Legal Aid Lawyers, Legal Aid Practitioners. August 2016

“Legal aid deserts have emerged as lawyers withdraw from services that are no longer financially viable, leaving many people no longer able to obtain access to justice.” UK Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, July 2018.

“Following a judicial review brought by the Children’s Society, …we will bring immigration matters for unaccompanied and separate children into scope of legal aid.” Lucy Fraser, Justice Minister, July 2018, ending the situation where even children appeared unrepresented in cases where they faced deportation.

“The government is dismantling the UK’s “precious system of legal aid”, placing access to justice under threat.” Lord Wilson a UK Supreme Court judge, Sept 2018

“If I had my time again I would stand up and argue against the implementation of LASPO. It’s wrong, completely wrong, to remove people’s right to have expert legal representation, and now I’ve gone through it I can see that clearly. We are definitely talking about justice being denied as a result of LASPO.” Nigel Evans, former Commons deputy speaker and Conservative MP, who spent his life savings defending himself against false accusations of rape and sexual abuse.

“Legal aid is the baseline for a civilised democracy. Without it, the rule of law collapses. People can only enforce their rights, or defend themselves against the state, if they have access to legal advice and representation. A civilised society considers legal aid akin to free healthcare. You don’t want to have to use it, but it’s there if you need it.” The Secret Barrister Dec 2018

Remember what Theresa May said when she became Prime Minister in 2016? She said “We will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.”

Unfortunately, we are now back in 1949 when the legal system, like the Ritz, is accessible to the privileged few that can afford it. The rest of us have to fend for ourselves or face very large legal bills.

And does Theresa May care a jot?

Amazing response from Thames Valley Police to rising crime rate.

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15 December 2018

On 22 October (see below), I blogged about the latest crime statistics for Thames Valley Police (TVP). For the third year running total crime had gone up – violent crime by 24%.

I looked on TVP’s website of TVP for an explanation of this increase and on the website of Anthony Stansfeld, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley.

I wondered whether there was a connection between the rising crime rate and the fact that the police grant for Thames Valley Police has been cut by 38% since the Conservatives came to power. Thames Valley Police has had to make £99 million of cuts, including 1000 posts.

However I couldn’t find a mention of the crime statistics on either website, far less an explanation.

So I wrote to Mr. Stansfeld and the Chief Constable and blogged the responses on 6 November (see below).

The Chief Constable’s office gave no explanation for the rise in the crime rate for the last three years. Mr. Stansfield gave an inaccurate explanation and attacked me for criticising the police.

Just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I also sent a freedom of information request to TVP. I asked whether Thames Valley Police had prepared an explanation for the latest crime statistics, either internally or in the public domain. And if so, could I have a copy please.

The truly amazing response, provided 6 weeks later, was:

“No information held. The crime statistics are disclosed under a proactive and ongoing basis. No analysis or ‘explanation’ is held for the latest release.”

You need to think about this response for a minute to appreciate how worrying it is.

In June, the crime statistics for TVP, issued by the Office for National Statistics, showed an increase in total crime for the third year running and a staggering increase in violent crime of 24%.

And yet TVP holds no explanation or analysis of these statistics.

There’s not a public explanation. And neither is there an internal memo, paper or e-mail analysing or explaining the statistics. Nothing.

So I have to ask - if TVP doesn’t analyse the crime statistics, or attempt to understand why crime is going up, how can TVP hope to target its resources and get the crime rate down?

Has the Chief Constable of Thames Valley got the honesty and guts to speak out?

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6 November 2018

2 weeks ago, I wrote to Mr Stansfeld, the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley Police (TVP), and the Chief Constable for TVP. I pointed out that the latest statistics for TVP showed a further increase in crime. They also showed substantial increases for some categories of crime such as violent crime and a colossal increase for stalking and harassment (see blog below of 22 October).

I suggested this painted a worrying picture but I couldn’t find any explanation of these figures from the Police and Crime Commissioner or TVP.

I asked if they could give me an explanation or point me to one if I had missed it.

This is Mr. Stansfeld’s response:

"The Chief Constable’s office will be answering your questions. However what I can point out that the increase in crime in the TVP area is much lower over most categories than in the rest of the country. There are nearly 50,000 crimes fewer in TVP than 10 years ago, and, when compared in our group of 8 most similar forces, we are the lowest for crimes of violence per head of population and the second lowest for household burglary. Considering our proximity to high crime areas such as London and Birmingham that is impressive. What is clear is that crime nationally is showing evidence of rising, but with a cut in real terms of over £100m in the TVP budget we are doing relatively well.

Instead of criticising the police it would be much more helpful if you could support the police, and understand that 84% of the TVP budget is people and when that budget is reduced it is reflected in police numbers. In the circumstances I believe TVP is performing well, but clearly not as well as if we were better financed,”

I’m going to take the last points first. Actually, I do support the police. I quite often stick up for the police who are doing an extremely difficult job and I help, in admittedly small ways, as an active, law-abiding citizen.

I did not criticise the police. I simply asked for an explanation of a further set of worrying crime statistics from those who are responsible – and accountable - locally. This is something any resident is entitled to do – and indeed it is what democracy is all about. Public officials ought to be pleased to provide such explanations.

Mr. Stansfeld was pleased to provide such an explanation – and take the credit - when the statistics showed a decrease in crime. But responsibility cuts both ways; if you take the credit for successes, you take the blame for failures.

And I find it interesting that Mr. Stansfeld is unable to refer me to anything he has put out already to explain what is happening.

Turning to the details, Mr. Stansfeld is incorrect in saying the increase in crime in the Thames Valley is much lower over most categories than the rest of the country. TVP is better in some categories and worse in others, including violent crime. A comparison of other police forces in the South East, all of whom are near London, again shows a variable picture with TVP coming out poorly on violent crime.

I am not reassured that Mr. Stansfeld feels TVP is doing relatively well, despite a £100million cut, when that comparison is with other police forces all of whom have also had cuts and seen an increase in crime.

I also had a response from the Chief Constable’s office. It begins:

“We are aware of an overall increase in recorded crime within Thames Valley; specifically the increase in crimes of harassment and stalking.

It is our belief that the increases in relation to these crime types, and more generally an increase in violence without injury, are primarily due to changes/improvements in our recording practice, rather than an increase in the actual crimes. These changes/improvements have been driven by two main issues.”

There then follows a detailed explanation about the way in which TVP previously failed to report harassment and stalking, and violence without injury as crimes and were now doing so.

And that’s it.

Now I am happy to accept that the colossal increase in recorded crime for harassment and stalking can be put down to previously poor reporting.

But that’s one small part of the picture. Where’s the explanation about the overall increase in reported crime for the last three years? Or about the increase in violent crime? Or robberies? Or sexual crimes?

There’s no explanation of the causes of the increase, no mention of the cuts in resources to TVP or the cuts to other organisations which help to reduce crime.

This what the Chief Constable of Staffordshire tweeted 4 days ago after the Home Secretary said forces had to use their resources more wisely:

“Happy to go on record agreeing that chiefs and policing can be more effective. We also need to maximise efficiency. However we also need to be resourced and funded to meet the demands placed on us. And we’re not.”

Perhaps the Chief Constable of TVP has said something similar in public and his office could quote him when residents ask for an explanation.

Or perhaps the Chief Constable thinks TVP is adequately funded.

But if he agrees with the Chief Constable of Staffordshire and hasn’t spoken out, it would be good if he had the honesty and guts to do so.

Crime up again in Thames Valley but no explanation from the police

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22 October 2018

I thought I would look at the latest statistics on crime for Thames Valley Police, released on 18 October. They cover the year ending June 2018.

Total crime has gone up in the Thames Valley area by 8% - which is better than the national increase (10%) and the South East increase (12%). This 8% increase is on top of a 10% increase last year and a 5% increase the year before.

Violent crime has gone up in Thames Valley by 24% which is worse than the national increase (19%) and the South East increase (21%).

In fact, all of the categories of crime have gone up in Thames Valley except theft from the person and shoplifting.

Some crimes have increased substantially from last year. These include robbery (up 32% compared with 22% nationally), public order offences (up 19% compared with 30 % nationally), sexual offences (15% compared to 18% nationally) and stalking and harassment (up by a colossal 76% compared to 36% nationally).

On the other hand, crimes involving possession of a weapon has gone up 6% compared to 23% nationally.

Rather a worrying picture. So you might think Anthony Stanfield, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, would wish to explain the increase to residents. After all, he took credit for a decrease in crime when he was running for re-election in 2016. So presumably he feels some responsibility for the increase since then.

I went to his website. I looked under news. The latest entry was for 18 October about his new service to support victims of exploitation. Nothing about the latest release of statistics showing a further increase in crime in Thames Valley.

I looked under “Crime figures”. This referred me to a page which had been moved, deleted or did not exist.

I looked on the website of Thames Valley Police. Not a word about the further increase in crime as far as I could see.

So I will ask Mr Stanfield and the Chief Constable for an explanation.

Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that the police grant for Thames Valley Police has been cut by 38% since the Conservatives came to power. Thames Valley Police has also had to make £99 million of cuts, including 1000 posts. Could there possibly be a connection with increasing crime in Thames Valley?

Next time it could be you in court custody

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19 August 2018

The criminal justice budget has been slashed since the Conservatives came to power.  Slashed by roughly 30% across the board.   The police, the courts, legal aid, prisons, probation – all slashed.    So too have all the support services – mental health, drug rehabilitation, victim support, domestic abuse refuges, youth service.  All slashed. 

The outcome is entirely predictable – crime and anti-social behaviour is up.  So too is re-offending and drug abuse. 

This blog is about a small part of this system.   It’s about court custody in Thames Valley.  This is about the conditions for people held in custody at court when they come to be tried or sentenced.  They probably won’t be held in court custody for very long - perhaps a day, perhaps daily for a week; it depends on the case.  Then they will either go to prison or be released.

So perhaps you think it doesn’t really matter what the custody cells are like, does it?  But it does – it really does.

Over 33, 000 people a year are detained by court custody in Thames Valley.   

Some of these people will be innocent.  Some of them will be violent, organised criminals.  Most of them will be frightened and stressed; they may be going to give evidence and this will determine if they go to prison and for how long.   

Many of the people using the cells are also going to be vulnerable in some way – perhaps mentally ill, or addicted, or simply confused.

Some will be children.

So how does the system treat these people at one of the most critical, life-changing times in their lives? 

This is what a report by HM Inspector of Prisons says.  It was published a month ago and covers 10 courts in Thames Valley where the provision of custody has been contracted out to a company called GEOAmey. 

To begin with, if you are a woman or a child, you may had a frightening journey to court.  You may have been transported to court alongside adult men with no effective safeguard from abuse.  

You may then be put in a cell at court which is dirty – and cold - and almost certainly lacking in natural light and good ventilation.    You will probably find graffiti in your cell, some of it offensive.  You will certainly find ligature points in your cell to hang yourself. 

You may find the communal areas are also dirty and the toilets may provide no privacy.  If you are a woman, you will have to ask for sanitary products.

You will be handcuffed even in secure and controlled areas.   And even if you are a child.

You will find there aren’t enough staff, and they have not been trained well enough to know what to do.

If you want to know what your rights are, you may find some information in your cell.  You will have to ask for help if you can’t read or understand or don’t speak English.      

At busy times, you may face delays seeing your legal representative because there may not be sufficient staff to supervise.        

If you are disabled or have mobility problems, you may be in difficulties; only one court is accessible for detainees with disabilities.  Staff have no training and little understanding of detainees with learning disabilities or conditions such as autism. 

There is no additional support for children, not even recognition that they are vulnerable because they are young.  

You will get food and drink – but probably nothing else.  You may wait in your cell for hours with nothing to occupy you. 

You probably won’t be placed in a cell with anyone else.  But if you are, there will be no assessment of the risk you may face from your new cell mate.      

You may be one of the unlucky ones who are “searched excessively and unnecessarily” during your stay.  Who knows, because the reasons for these searches are “inconsistent”.

If you become ill or are injured, you will get treated but it may take some time.   Staff haven’t been trained about mental health problems or substance abuse.   

So after being treated like that, how do you think you would perform in court?    Would you give of your best?  Would you feel comfortable and confident, when asked difficult questions?  Or would you feel depressed and hopeless? 

Never mind, you may get released.   But don’t look for someone to check that you’ve got enough money to get home – or that you are fit to do so.  Or someone to check that you have a home.  Even if you are elderly or vulnerable.

Remember, next time, it really could be you in court custody, or your children or someone else you care about.

 

 

 

Does Anthony Stansfeld, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley Police, have any idea what he is saying?

4 April 2018

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I sent my blog of 26 March on the increase of burglary in Bucks to Anthony Stansfeld, the Police and Crime Commissioner of Thames Valley Police (TVP).  His response is below.  My comments on this are:

1.     I’m always dubious when elected politicians say they try to keep politics out of their jobs.   It’s as though they think they can somehow rise above the fray and put all their beliefs, opinions and prejudices to one side. 

So when Anthony Stansfeld said this in his e-mail I was somewhat sceptical. 

After all, he ran as the Conservative candidate for the post of Commissioner.  His leaflets were put out by the Conservative party and his campaign was managed by the Conservative Party.   

Anthony Stansfeld was a Conservative district Councillor when he was first elected as Commissioner in 2012 and he remained a Councillor for a considerable period afterwards. 

Presumably he therefore believes strongly in the values and policies of the Conservative party. 

So it seems a tall order to believe he puts all this aside in his job as Police and Crime Commissioner.   

And why would someone who claims to keep politics out of his job make so many jibes at Labour Commissioners in his response?  (And without any evidence).

If anyone has any doubts about Mr. Stansfeld’s willingness to speak out with his political views, they only have to read an interview he gave for the Telegraph in May 2016 as the Police and Crime Commissioner for TVP.  He said:

Crime will continue to spiral until our borders are brought under control.  And Britain will be unable to control its borders unless it votes to leave the European Union….    Murder rates and serious violence – driven by eastern European gangs – are increasing as organised crime on British soil is now controlled from abroad.  Membership of the EU has also allowed Islamist terrorists to roam the Continent at will, leaving them free to come to our country and flourish. 

The public will see growing numbers of armed police on the streets of Britain as a direct consequence of this inability to control our borders. EU membership prevents the most elementary precautions that need to be put in place to combat rising levels of organised crime.

The vast sums we pour into the EU have no auditable trail, no democratic oversight, and much is wasted or ends up in criminal hands.”

So I think it is reasonable to conclude that Anthony Stansfeld is a Conservative politician who brings his strong political views to the job of Commissioner.

 

2.     Mr. Stansfeld suggests I should compare the record of TVP with other police forces.  If I did, I would see what a relatively good job TVP does.   

I don’t propose to do this because the subject matter of my blogsite is about political events in Bucks.  There are many people blogging about national politics but very few about politics in Bucks, particularly from a left wing perspective.  So I keep it local.

The important point is that burglary in Bucks has gone up by 16%. 

 

3.     Nevertheless, I checked on Mr. Stansfeld’s assertion that “Burglary has gone up nationally, however it has gone up less in TVP than all its neighbouring 9 police forces except one.”

The facts are that burglary in TVP has gone up by 16% and nationally by 8%.  So burglary in Bucks has gone up at twice the national rate. 

Moreover burglary in TVP has gone up more than in two of the other four police forces in the South East and more than the average for the South East.  Burglary in TVP has gone up four times as much as in the Metropolitan police area.  The link is below if anyone wants to check. 

It worries me that the Police and Crime Commissioner can make such a misleading statement, presumably for political reasons, when it can be so easily checked.   I would have thought probity and good judgement essential for the job.

4.     Mr. Stansfeld also suggests that it would make a difference if TVP had more resources. 

Well, that’s not what he said when he was campaigning for the post in 2016.   He then claimed credit for the decrease in crime rates – overlooking the fact that crime was on the increase just before the election.   

Anthony Stansfeld didn’t criticize the Government’s austerity policies before he was elected nor criticise then the draconian cuts to the police.  He didn’t warn us then that the cuts would mean an increase in crime.  He didn’t say then that TVP needed more resources nor warn us that our local rates for the police would have to go up.   

Apparently he has only now seen the light.     

5. Mr. Stansfeld has a salary of £85,000 a year and his office has a budget of £7 million. Perhaps one of the best ways of providing TVP with more resources would be to abolish the post of Commissioner.   

 

Anthony Stansfeld’s response

“Dear Linda,

I do my best to keep politics out of my job as PCC, and I have good relations with my three Labour MPs, and all the 20 Labour PCCs, many of whom were cabinet ministers under the last Labour government.

You have to look at the HMICFRS reports and the crime figures at a national level. Overall only one other police force in the country has had better reports than Thames Valley Police (TVP), that is Durham, which gets considerably more money than we do. If I had the same amount of money per head of population as Durham we could afford 1000 extra police officers, which would make a difference. We were the only two forces to be graded ‘outstanding’ for efficiency.

We have either been graded as Outstanding or Good in all major reports except one, that was Crime Recording. Out of the 19 forces that have been graded in this category 10 were graded as ‘inadequate’, most of them had Labour PCCs. All large force were graded inadequate., TVP was no exception. The crimes are being recorded, it is whether, at point of contact through the call centre, the operator grades them as crimes or incidents, which can be upgraded when a police officer looks into it, or downgraded from crime to incident. There is considerable disagreement amongst forces as to how HMICFRS grades this, notably amongst Labour PCCs.

Burglary has gone up nationally, however it has gone up less in TVP than all its neighbouring 9 police forces except one. It is still lower than it was 6 years ago, and TVP has lower rates than its 5 most similar forces, it used to be the highest.

Overall TVP is rated better than most other forces, and better than all Labour PCC controlled forces other than Durham. I do not make political points out of this. I would like more money from central government. TVP receives substantially less than all the other large forces, yet we do considerably better than them in inspections and have less crime. All the other large forces have Labour PCCs.

I hope this helps, but as I said I do not make political capital out of this, I am not complacent, I think we should do better in some areas, and every effort is being made to do this,”

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/policeforceareadatatables

 

 

Vote Conservative and get burgled

26 March 2018

Follow me @LindaDerrick1

Sometimes I think there are a lot of residents who haven’t, so far, felt any effect of the cuts in Bucks. 

Maybe they don’t have children at school – or their children are in private education.  Or they’re healthy – or they have private health insurance.  Or they don’t drive a car – or they can afford to repair the car when they drive over a pothole.  And they don’t need benefits or any support from social services or housing.  

These residents are very lucky – or very well off.  Or both.   

But there are a few things these lucky or prosperous residents should be concerned about.  One of these is the increase in burglaries.    

There was a 16% increase in burglaries in the Thames Valley Police (TVP) area between September 2016 and September 2017.  Over 13,000 burglaries took place in 2017.  This is an incident rate of 32 in 1000 residents.  Or to put it another way, for every 100 residents in the TVP area, 3 of us got burgled.  

Mind you, even these figures might be a major underestimate as Thames Valley Police has been assessed as inadequate in accurately recording crimes.  A report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said TVP failed to record nearly 20% of crimes reported to it.  That’s over 35,000 crimes not recorded. 

Failure to record crimes means there is no investigation, no arrest and no prosecution which means the criminals can carry out more burglaries.  As says HMIC unsurprisingly, this increases the potential risk of harm to victims.   

In general, Thames Valley Police is not good at investigating crimes and reducing re-offending; it was assessed by HMIC as inadequate in this area.    

So perhaps, residents ought to be a bit concerned about police cuts and the increase in burglaries.

 

Another dismal scrutiny by BCC Select Committee – this time of the PREVENT duty

18 March 2018

Follow me at @LindaDerrick1

Last Tuesday, Bucks County Council’s Select Committee on Transport, Environment and Communities considered a paper on the Prevent Duty. Officers also gave a presentation.

The Prevent Duty requires BCC (amongst other organisations) to “...have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

 

25% of people going through the Channel Programme (which is intended to protect and divert individuals away from radicalization) were at risk from far right ideologies.

The paper sets out the considerable amount of work BCC has done to fulfil its duty. It also sets out the complicated partnership arrangements for working with other organisations. It mentions a few challenges but, more or less, the paper presents a picture of significant achievement.

The officers were congratulated on their work and the members of the Select Committee said it had all been very interesting.

Which is all very well except the Select Committee’s job is to scrutinise the work of BCC, in this case BCC’s statutory responsibilities for the Prevent Duty. The role of the Select committees is to hold their colleagues, in this case the Cabinet member Councillor Noel Brown, to account for improving outcomes and services for Buckinghamshire.

But they didn’t. Not one even slightly challenging question.

So here’s some questions the Select Committee could have asked

- What is the evidence that the activities carried out by BCC in fulfilling its Prevent duties prevent people being drawn into terrorism? What are the indicators of success for the work?

- What is the budget allocated to the work? How is it spent? Who ensures it is spent cost effectively?

- The statutory guidance requires an assessment of the risk and action plans to address any risks. Where is the assessment and the plans for Bucks?

- The paper says there is “antipathy” shown towards the Prevent Programme nationally based on “misreporting and misrepresentation of purpose and outcomes, perceptions of, or actual errors in, how it has been implemented in different areas and personal agendas (such as wanting to sow fear and mistrust within communities).” It also says “More work, therefore, is necessary to engage with communities locally (including civil society groups) so that misunderstandings and misgivings can be discussed. So what is BCC doing to engage with local communities? Did it for example consult local communities about the paper and the presentation to the Select Committee? Was the community roundtable event in Wycombe successful?

- Officers stressed that preventing people being drawn into terrorism was just another form of safeguarding. How was this reassuring when BCC’s arrangements for safeguarding (for children at least) are assessed as inadequate?

I have to admit it was depressing to see a Select Committee doing such a poor job at scrutiny. So in future I’m going to remind readers how much Councillors get for this work.

1. All BCC Councillors get a basic allowance of £11,454 a year.

2. Councillor Noel Brown also gets a special allowance of £21,598 as a BCC Cabinet member.

3. Councillor Carroll also gets a special allowance of £10,805 as Chairman of this Select Committee. As the Select Committee is due to meet 6 times this year, that works out at £1,800 per meeting.

4. BCC Councillors may also be district Councillors, in which case they would also get an allowance for their district council work. For example, Councillors Carroll and Clarke also get a basic allowance from Wycombe District Council of £6198. Councillor Carroll is also a Cabinet member for WDC for which he gets a special allowance of £12,396. This for example brings his total council income to £40,853 a year.

5. All Councillors get travel and subsistence allowances.

 

Say NO to Thames Valley’s Police and Crime Commissioner.  Deadline 11 Jan.

9 January 2018   

Just before Christmas, Anthony Stansfeld, Thames Valley’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) , asked residents two questions in a survey on an increase in council tax i.e.:

1.      Do you think an extra £12 per year in council tax, for a Band D property, to help protect operational policing in Thames Valley would be money well spent?  

2.     If you have answered No to question 1, will you please explain why and propose an alternative annual increase that you believe is justified and will enable the Force to do their job effectively?

His message explains that the police grant (the part that comes from the Government) has been cut by 38% since the Conservatives came to power.  Thames Valley Police has had to make £99 million of cuts which means cutting over 1000 posts, including 450 police officers. 

The Government has offered a national package of increased police funding of £450 million.  However, when you read the small print, police forces will only get the money if PCCs raise 60% of the £450 million via an increase in the police element of council tax.  

So over £270 million has to come from an increase in council tax.  The Government didn’t shout that from the rooftops when it announced the package. 

The Chancellor told us proudly in his last budget that he was cutting corporation tax (it was 28% in 2013 and is going down to 17% in 2020).  However, he didn’t mention our council taxes would have to go up to pay for essential policing.   The Conservative Government is leaving it to the PCCs to tell us the bad news

If I was a cynic (heaven forbid) I would suspect Mr Stanfeld of putting out this survey when it won’t get noticed (except by his friends and colleagues who will all say yes).  And then he has protected his back because it is residents who have agreed council tax should go up.  Job done.   

Conservative Wycombe Councillors complained recently about the failure by the police to police Wycombe town centre.  They should have been complaining to the members of their own party in Government about its austerity policies.   It is known as pigeons coming home to roost.

I belong to a political party which believes in providing good quality public services.  I am happy to pay for the services as part of a fair and progressive system of taxation.  Taxes are what we pay for civilised society.  

So I am going to answer NO to the question posed to Mr Stansfeld. 

I want the national police grant restored by the national Government under a fair and progressive system of taxation, not subsidized by local taxes which are increasing biased towards areas which are prosperous .

If you want to say the same, the link to the survey is below.  The deadline is midday Thursday.  

Perhaps Mr Stanfeld might like to answer my 2 questions:

1.     Since the Conservatives came to power, I have seen cuts to the police, the probation service, the courts and prisons by over 30% not to mention cuts to welfare, education, health etc.    Bucks County Council’s grant from Government has been cut completely.  You name it and it has been cut under the Government’s austerity policies.    

So why hasn’t my income tax been cut by over 30%?    Why am I paying roughly the same amount of income tax but the services funded by Government have been slashed?

2.     According to the PCC’s accounts for 2016/7, the PCC’s office spent nearly £17 million.

Does Mr Stansfeld believe his post delivers £17 million of value added to policing and crime prevention?  Or does he believe £17 million would be better spent policing Wycombe town and other front line activities. 

https://www.thamesvalley-pcc.gov.uk/news-and-events/thamesvalley-pcc-news/2017/12/survey-on-an-increase-in-council-tax-to-help-protect-operational-policing-is-launched/

 

 

 

No surprise to see an increase in knife crime.

1 December 2017

Crime continues to go up.    

According to the latest figures published last week, total crime is up nationally by 14% (from June 2016-June 2017) and by 10% in the area of Thames Valley Police.

Violence crime against the person is up nationally by 19% and by 6% in the TVP area. 

This is not surprising as the number of police officers has fallen by 13% since 2010 (with more to come).  There have also been cuts to the probation service and the prison service.

But Bucks County Council might like to ponder the impact of its cuts on the increase in crime – and the impact of the further cuts it proposes to the services to children and young people. 

For example, knife crime is up 11% nationally (I can’t find the statistics for TVP) with NHS admissions for knife wounds up by 13%.  2017 is set to be one of the worst years for deaths from knife attacks. 

Research shows that knife crime  

-          is primarily about young men and boys

-          is more likely to take place in urban areas

-          is more likely to take place in poor areas

-          is about class and not race and ethnicity. (Since some ethnic groups are disproportionately poor, they are disproportionately affected – as perpetrators and victims).

-          often involves a young person with mental health problems.

Research (much of it carried out in Scotland which bucks the trend) also shows that the most effective approach to knife crime is one based on providing better health, education and social support to the perpetrator and victim. 

Early intervention is critical.

BCC proposes to cut a further £3.3 million from services for early help to children and young people.  We are all stlll waiting for the impact assessment from BCC.  We will see if it includes an assessment of the impact of the cuts on knife crime.   

I’ll leave you with a quote from Gary Younge, a journalist:

“If you make it harder for young people to stay in education, harder for them to get treatment if they are mentally ill, harder for them to find safe and productive places to spend leisure time with each other and with adults who are trained to work with them, then we should not be surprised to see an increase in social problems among the young – including social violence in general and knife crime in particular.”

 

Underwhelmed by David Lidington’s response on prison riot at Aylesbury

14 September 2017

5 days after my blog (below) I got a response from David Lidington, MP.  I had written to him on 2 August, as my constituency MP, to ask what he was doing to sort out the riots in our prisons, including riots in Aylesbury Youth Offenders Institute, which is in his own constituency.

After checking I really did live in Mr Lidington’s constituency, his office sent my question to the Ministry of Justice.  The Ministry responded to Mr Lidington on 23 August.  Mr Lidington then sent that response to me on 7 September, 14 days later.  A summary of the response is below in red.

I have to say I was underwhelmed by the response.  To begin with, it does not answer the question.  I asked what my constituency MP was doing; and I was told what the Ministry intended to do.  I asked what Mr Lidington was doing to sort out the riots in Aylesbury YOI; and there is hardly anything in the response about Aylesbury YOI. 

I was sort of hoping that Mr Lidington would say he had visited Aylesbury YOI and had discussed its problems with the Governor, with the prison officers who had been at risk and even with some of the prisoners.  But no.

I was sort of hoping that he might explain the problems at Aylesbury – the staffing problems in particular and why it was so difficult to recruit and retain staff there – and what measures were being put in place there.   But no.

The Ministry’s letter mentions recruiting 2500 officer nationally by the end of 2018.  According to the Howard League, the number of full-time equivalent front line prison officers in March 2010 was 19,900.  By 2016 (the latest figures), the number had fallen to 14,700 – a reduction of 26%.   So an extra 2,500 would only plug about half the gap of the fall since 2010.

Moreover, these extra 2500 prison officer will be inexperienced.  In 2013/4, almost 2000 prison officers left with voluntary early exit packages.  So the Government paid for thousands of experienced staff to leave the prison service and are now recruiting thousands of inexperienced staff who will need training and mentoring. 

Apart for anything else, it just makes no financial sense. 

Meanwhile prisoner numbers have risen.  In August, there were over 86,000 people behind bars in England and Wales, up by more than 1,500 compared with 12 months earlier.

And there are record numbers of suicides in prison and incidents of self-harm, record numbers of assaults on staff, record numbers of prisoners released by mistake and record numbers of riots. 

But if you want to know what David Lidington, MP, is doing about the riots at Aylesbury YOI, he’s not telling.  Either that, or he is doing absolutely nothing.

Response from the Ministry of Justice says:

-        Safety and security in prisons is its top priority

-        2500 prison officers to be recruited by the end of 2018

-        Government announced new measures to tackle drones, phones and drugs

-        75 prison officer mentors to support new officers

-        30 prison governors to be given greater freedoms to hire the staff right for them

-        Zero tolerance to violence in jails and swifter justice for these offenders

-        Government to introduce intelligence units (although it’s not clear what their purpose is)

-        Dedication of officers and professional action of specialist staff at Aylesbury swiftly restored order in July when prisoners rioted

-        Investigation of the riunderway.

 

20 prison officers at Bovingdon supervising 1000 prisoners.  It’s frightening

2 September 2017

 

A month ago, I reported on riots at prisons at Bovingdon and Aylesbury (see below). 

I sent my blog to David Lidington, MP, and asked him what he was doing about the riots as he is not only the MP for Aylesbury but also the Minister for Justice. 

 

A few days later, Mr. Lidington’s Parliamentary Assistant told me that Mr. Lidington only dealt with cases of his own constituents.  He therefore asked me to confirm my address.  I did so – and Mr. Lidington’s Parliamentary Assistant promptly forwarded my question to the Ministry of Justice.     I’m still waiting for any sort of response.   

Mr. Lidington must have been getting a lot questions because a few weeks later he made a statement.  He found the report into the riot at Aylesbury “troubling”. 

 

Funnily enough that was roughly what he said in 2015 when the then Chief Inspector of Prisons called Aylesbury Young Offenders Institute a “dire, dangerous and disastrous” prison.   Mr. Lidington said then he was going to write to the Prisons Minister “to ask for all appropriate action to be taken to address the problems that the inspectors have identified”. 

 

Well writing to the Prisons Minister evidently didn’t work as by the time the riot took place two years later only 14 of the 75 recommendations in the 2015 report had been implemented.

 

Still Mr. Lidington is now in the happy position of being able to ask himself to take action.    

 

And what is he going to do?  Well, he has set up a new unit to make sure the Ministry “redoubles its efforts to ensure that inspectors' reports are acted upon”.  So in another 2 years he will have his very own unit telling him once again that little progress has been made at Aylesbury YOI.   

 

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with one frightening statistic.  The last director–general of the Prison and Probation Service said the riot at Bovingdon prison happened because “there were only 20 officers on duty to supervise more than a 1000 prisoners”. 

 

Just work it out.  How can 20 officers have the time to unlock 1000 prisoners each day and supervise their exercise, showers, phone calls, training, association, visits for healthcare and visits from family and friends?   The answer is – they can’t.  So prisoners stay in their cells and get depressed and angry. 

 

How can 20 officers, spread across the large Bovingdon prison estate, provide cover if an incident occurs?   The answer is – they can’t.  You get a riot.      

 

Prison riots in Bovingdon and Aylesbury in last two weeks.

2 August 2017

A riot happened at HMP The Mount at Bovingdon on Monday and Tuesday this week and a “mass brawl” happened at Aylesbury Young Offenders Institution on 21 July.

Neither of these incidents seems to have been reported by the local press.   So you can read about it here.

Violence broke out in two wings at The Mount on Monday and at least 50 cells were damaged. On Tuesday, armed prisoners took over one of the wings and a “tornado team” of riot- trained officers had to be called in.    

The wing is believed to hold between 200 and 250 prisoners serving short sentences or with only three months left to serve of their sentence.  They would not normally be expected to cause problems so near to their release. 

However, staff shortages are so severe that the prison had had three weekends of total lockdown with prisoners locked in their cells.

The Independent Monitoring Board found in 2016 that "all the ingredients were in place for The Mount to suffer disorder such as has been experienced in other prisons i.e. staff shortages, readily available drugs and mounting violence”.

It said the prison was 25 staff short out of a planned 136. 

The Prison Service said there were no injuries to staff or prisoners

Here’s an anonymous account by a prison officer of what happened at Aylesbury YOI. 

“The incident yesterday was horrific. The wing has been brewing for a while. The worst, most difficult wing is being run by new officers. We are 30 staff down and now will be even more. 

The wing is over run with problems of gangs and gang violence. There has been a big rise in weapons and drugs in the jail. The governors were warned. The wing in question houses most gangs in the jail on one wing. 

A mass brawl broke out yesterday morning, calling on all officers available lots of times. We didn't have the staff. Prisoners were attacking each other with weapons… 


Staff were trying to save prisoners’ lives and got battered. Some were seriously injured. Another officer was on the landing unconscious. We had ambulances and fire service in trying to help alongside our healthcare department. If anything had happened elsewhere in the jail we wouldn't have been able to cope. 


Aylesbury is at breaking point. Eleven officers had to go to hospital and others are injured. 


I enjoy my job and enjoy working with the prisoners, but yesterday was different. They had no fear and they didn't care. The staff tried their best and they worked incredibly hard. They put their lives on the line to save the prisoners’ lives when they seemed to just want to kill each other! 


We have prisoners who are over 22 stuck in the jail because we barely have any offender supervisors to do the work and no adult jails will take our lads. The wings are rife with spice, cannabis, steroids and weapons. 


I don't understand how the MOJ can sit there and justify what they do.”


The police said seven prison officers and one prisoner were taken to hospital. 

David Lidington is the Minister for Justice responsible for prisons.  He is also the MP for Aylesbury.  

So what is he doing to sort out riots in the prisons, including riots in his own constituency?

 

Security and crime in Bucks

 

29 May 2017

There are some vitriolic attacks being made about Jeremy Corbyn in the national right wing press about his views on security and police resources.  So I thought I would just provide some facts about what is happening in Bucks.  You can then make your own deductions.  

 

Fact No 1

The budget of Thames Valley Police was cut by £58 million from 2010/11 to 2014/5 and is being cut by £45 million from 2014/5 to 2017/8.  This is about a 25% cut over the 7 years. The latest cut will mean a further reduction of 189 police officers. 

 

Fact No 2

It requires team work to keep us safe and reduce crime.  The police normally take the lead but they need help from the local authorities, the youth service, the probation service, the courts, the prison service, the education service and the NHS to name just a few public sector bodies. 

 

All these public sector bodies have been cut since 2010 and will be cut further under plans already agreed  by the Government. 

 

Fact No 3

Recorded crime is increasing in Thames Valley.   Overall reported crime was up 7% in 2016/7 on 2015/6 including violence against the person, robbery, burglary, vehicle crime, hate crime and particularly arson, trafficking of drugs, and possession of weapons.

 

Fact No 4

Wycombe District was designated a Tier 1 Priority Area in 2013 in terms of the Prevent Strategy under the Government’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  There are other Prevent areas within the Thames Valley Police force area but I’m afraid I cannot find out where. Wycombe is the only Tier 1 Area as it is considered higher risk.

 

Local authorities and other bodies like schools have statutory duties to prevent radicalisation. 

 

The Prevent Programme in Wycombe is co-ordinated by Wycombe District Council.  Funding for a Strategic Coordinator’s Post and certain projects was provided by the Home Office until March 2015, when funding was withdrawn.  

 

The role of Councillors was then “strengthened to take on a greater role within their Wards”.  I don’t know what this means.   

 

Fact No 5

Labour’s manifesto has a chapter on safer communities which includes proposals to recruit an extra 10,000 community police officers as well as proposals for the courts, probation services etc.  The extra police officers will cost £0.3 billion.

 

Fact No 6  

Jeremy Corbyn gave a 15 minute speech on domestic security last Friday.  It is a thoughtful speech and based on the views of the intelligence service.  You can listen for yourself.

 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=corbyn+speech+security&view=detail&mid=629792DE9F0C7BC4F950629792DE9F0C7BC4F950&FORM=VIRE

 

Fact No 7

Teresa May’s response misrepresents Jeremy Corbyn’s speech and made it personal.  View for yourself.  

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R4Ec5YcfJk.

 

 

 

Now you can decide for yourself whether you want to vote Labour or Conservative.  

 

Increase in crime in Thames Valley not surprising

13 April 2017

Yesterday the Metropolitan police reported an increase of 42% in gun crime for the last financial year.  It also reported an increase in knife crime of 24% and an increase in overall crime of 4%. 

Crime rates in the rest of England and Wales are also reported to be rising so I thought I would see how Thames Valley Police are doing.  It seems the statistics for 2016/7 won’t be released for a few weeks but here’s how it’s looking up to September 2016.

The bad news was that most categories of recorded crimes in Thames Valley were up.  Possession of a weapon was up by 6%, violent crime was up 17% and sexual offences were up 8%.  The only crimes with a significant decrease were drug offences.  Overall crime (which excludes fraud) was up by 5%.   

The good news was that, in nearly all the categories, the percentage increase in Thames Valley was less than the national percentage increase.    

The causes of crime are complex but it is widely accepted that poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse are all connected in explaining why people commit crimes.

Just looking at poverty, there are currently 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK, according to Barnardos.  That’s over a quarter of all children. 1.7 million of these children are living in severe poverty.  Over 60% of children living in poverty are in a family where someone works.

In 2013/4, the Government said there were 2.3 million children living in poverty.

So there has been over a 60% increase in child poverty in the last 3 years.  This might be one reason for an increase in crime. 

Since 2010, there have been massive cuts to police funding.   This means that the police are less able to prevent crime – and less able to detect crimes and get convictions.  

Which is probably another reason for the increase in crime.

So it’s not surprising really that crime has gone up.

 

Posted by Linda Derrick.  Promoted by Martin Abel on behalf of Linda Derrick at 5 Spencer Road, Aylesbury HP21 7LR     

 

In praise of brave Muslims in Wycombe 

Follow me @LindaDerrick1

22 February 2017

Last year the three imans in Wycombe’s mosques admitted that they had called Mumtaz Qadri, a Pakistani convicted murderer, a “shaheed”. A shaheed is someone who commits holy acts.

Mumtaz Qadri was convicted of murder by the Government of Pakistan and executed last year. Mumtaz Qadri murdered the Governor of the Punjab because the Governor called for the relaxation of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws and Mumtaz Qadri opposed any such relaxation.

The imans were preaching that this murder was a holy act because it was carried out for religious purposes. They did this in front of hundreds of worshippers at all three mosques in Wycombe on two successive Fridays in March 2016.

Such preaching legitimises the belief that murder in the name of religion is holy.

Such preaching has already inspired at least one murder in the UK, the murder of Asad Shah, a shopkeeper in Glasgow.

Such preaching by the religious leaders of Islam in Wycombe contributes to the radicalisation of residents of Wycombe. It puts the security of residents at risk.

Such preaching is unacceptable. It should be seen as unacceptable. It should be challenged by the community – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – and by their civic and religious leaders, loudly and clearly.

And yet, alarmingly, the only reason most non- Muslims know about this preaching is because a Muslim living in Wycombe went to the press. He and his family have since had death threats.

The only reason most of us know the imans admitted to this preaching is because the Mosque Committee, the imans’ employer, commissioned an independent investigation in August last year.

The imans did not apologise for their preaching; they said they believed they had done nothing wrong.

The members of the Mosque Committee who pressed for this investigation have also been threatened.

After the investigation, the Mosque Committee gave the imans a formal warning to stop them preaching anything similar in future. The imans appealed against the warnings and the appeal have just been turned down.

The Mosque Committee has taken steps to safeguard worshippers at the mosques from radicalisation, including of young people.

Throughout this time, not one religious or civic leader spoke out publicly to condemn the preaching nor to support the whistleblower or the Mosque Committee.

Steve Baker, Wycombe’s MP, initially intervened in May 2016. He met the imans who told him they had been falsely accused. He told the press he was “satisfied the local Imams preached the rule of law and peaceful co-existence”.

After the investigation, Steve Baker said the use of the word shaheed was “unwise” and called for an urgent explanation of the imans’ reasons to reassure the public. He has never provided the public with any explanation the imans might have given him.

I wrote to Katrina Wood, Leader of WDC, asking her to call for an explanation. She declined to do so and made no criticism of the imans’ preaching.

I wrote to the Council for Christian and Muslim Relations last November asking for their comments. One of the three Wycombe imans is an officer of the Council and was representing the Council in schools. I have had no response from the Council and they have said nothing publicly.

So no praise to Wycombe’s MP, nor to WDC Councillors nor the Council for Christian and Muslim Relations. No leadership and no moral courage.

Let us instead praise the whistleblower who risked isolation from his community and physical harm to himself and his family in order to stop this unacceptable preaching.

Let us also praise those members of the Mosque Committee who have protected the safety and security of residents in Wycombe – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – despite opposition from other Muslims and with no public support from community leaders in Wycombe. 

What’s happening inside our prisons in Bucks?

27 December 2016

There’s been a series of prison riots recently so I thought I would choose one of the prisons in Bucks and see what is happening.

The one I’ve chosen is Aylesbury Youth Offending Institution.  This is for two reasons.  First I worked as a volunteer in Aylesbury YOI some years ago and second it holds (in the words of its Independent Monitoring Board) the most disruptive and challenging young men in the prison system. 

Unsurprisingly, you can’t find out a lot about a prison from the outside.    However the Independent Monitoring Board and HM Inspectorate of Prisons published reports at the end of 2015.  Here’s what they say:

-          The governor and staff work hard to provide as safe and as caring an environment as they can within the resources provided by the Government. 

-          However the number of uniformed staff available for duty is significantly below what is planned. 

-          Moreover there are insufficient resources to provide employment and education opportunities for the prisoners. 

This means too many prisoners spend long periods locked in bleak conditions without activity (HMIP’s words not mine).   It leads to boredom and frustration.

This is bad for most people but for young men with challenging behaviour the result is predictable:

-          high levels of violence, some of it serious;

-          high levels of self-harm; and  

-          easy access to drugs and high levels of the use of Spice.    

In addition, punishments are considered too severe; some prisoners are deprived of access to showers, exercise and telephones which are basic rights of prisoners not privileges.   

Many of the wings and cells are grubby and some of the shared areas described as “filthy”. 

Many prisoners have grievances as their property goes missing as they move from other prisons.

Recommendations to provide sufficient resources so that every prisoner has the opportunity for productive work or education have been repeatedly ignored.

 

Perhaps the situation in Aylesbury YOI has improved since last year – or perhaps not.

But society has a choice.  It can cut resources and create the situation described in HMIP’s report.   The consequences are riots and higher rates of crime, anti-social behaviour, drug use and mental health problems.   That costs society in the end.   This is the choice of this Tory Government.

Or society can invest in prisons, reduce reoffending and achieve positive outcomes for those detained and for the public.  This is where the Labour Party would go. 

Your choice.