Saturday, 27 October 2012

2 Strikes and Out and PCC Action day x 2

Well we are now only 3 weeks away from the PCC elections and the pace is hotting up.  The hustings have started and the candidates are all starting to make their views known.  Firstly however can I just take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who have hand delivered 50,000 cards and 50,000 of my PCC magazines!  I should also mention how delighted I was to see that the government have heard our demands for action to be taken about sex offenders and those who commit acts of serious violence to be at last convicted for life imprisonment on their second conviction.  Hopefully we will never ever have another incident like the tragic murder of Mrs Richardson in Hexham in 2011 by a known and convicted psychopath like Derek Jarman who should never have been released from prison in the first place.
I had my second action day yesterday and this time I concentrated on the links between alcohol and crime.  Crime is at record low levels so the challenge for PCC’s is how to drive it down even further, not easy.  However one way is to address this regions obsession with alcohol.  We have the highest levels of liver disease and hospital admissions, which is costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.  Plus 50% of all crime is linked to alcohol, as is 50% of all serious violence, 45% of domestic violence and 1 in 6 police officers are assaulted because of it.
The key I believe is to reduce its affordability, availability and desirability.  So yesterday I vested, Spice FM radio, Mary Angelou Centre, spoke to Safe Newcastle and visited the Tyneside Rape Crisis Centre.  It became clear to me that all of us are affected by the detrimental affects of alcohol.  I’m not preaching about this because during this process I learned that I’m a self confessed binge drinker!  In other words I wait until a Friday or Saturday night to have a drink of beer, glass of wine with a meal or in the winter a wee dram.  I suppose none of us are ever too old or wise to learn! 
So onwards and upwards, lots more public events to come to yet before the big day.  I wish you all well and hope that you and your families stay safe and please remember the 15th of November and get out there, make your own choice and please vote!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

PCC Action day Killer on the loose

I spent today touring the region during a hectic but rewarding action day speaking to members of the public about their views on the role of Police and Crime Commissioner.  What was astonishing was the varying degrees of experiences of crime, members of the public had.  I spoke to one gentleman on Gosforth High Street whose stepson had been stabbed to death.  The offender got 4 years imprisonment and was out after only serving 2 and half years.  The family had to live with seeing this offender walking the streets freely whilst they were still grieving for their son. 

I toured the region in my bright orange 1972 VW campervan, which certainly seemed to capture the attention of the public.  I spoke to residents and business owners in Sea Road, Fulwell, Sunderland.  The first resident I met had just had her car broken into overnight.  The offenders smashed the side window.  She phoned the police that morning and they said that they couldn’t send anyone until 8pm that night.  As you can imagine she didn’t think much of that at all and I agreed with her that it was unacceptable. This is exactly the sort of thing we need to be telling the Chief Constable.  Victims of crime deserve a better service from the police.  The first business I went into Barlow’s the fruit shop had just been burgled during the week.  The business owner had been left with a £400 bill and the offenders had stolen petty cash of £40.00.

Many residents had some good ideas about crime prevention.  Sea Road was one of the few shopping areas without CCTV and business owners wanted to see more parking bays for customers feeling that people stopping to shop would put shop lifters off if they thought more drivers were paying attention rather then just driving through the area without stopping.

Later in the day I visited the Sub 21 Football anti youth disorder scheme in Wallsend with the elected Mayor Linda Arkley.  As usual 40 boys turned up to play on the same pitch making it difficult to identify who was on whose team.  Through the generosity of START FITNESS sports shop in Newcastle Phil was able to donate 40 coloured bibs so that the lads could identify who was on each team. 

The day ended with a general walkabout in Tynemouth with Linda Arkley talking to visitors and local residents.  I distributed many of his latest magazines 40,000 of which will be circulated across the region.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Drugs and reducing crime further

I’m looking at a radical shake up of the way the region deals with drug offenders to reduce crime, break the cycle of crime, improve the quality of life for residents and save taxpayers money.

At present we are not catching people with a drug addiction early, enough which means that their lives are spiralling out of control, and their habit is driving them to commit further crime without having any rational ability to stop or control it. 

I’ve spent the last two months speaking to people who work with drug offenders at every level, on the streets, management and right up to Chief Executive and they all say the same thing, we need to break the cycle of drugs and crime and have an integrated regional approach.  This means that everyone from Local Authorities, the police, probation and drug treatment agencies need to make radical changes to work more effectively together to catch drug offenders at an early stage.

According to the Home Office, national, research shows that offenders identified through a drug test on arrest (a mouth swab) already had an average of 8.8 convictions which means we are not catching drug offenders early enough. It also revealed that the overall volume of offending was lower (26 per cent) following identification through a positive Drugs Intervention Program drug test. Around half the offenders showed a decline in offending of around 79 per cent in the following six months.  These results show what a powerful impact early intervention can have on offenders addicted to drugs. The research shows that for ‘every £1 spent on treatment we can not only reduce crime but we can make £9.50 savings.

We are wasting valuable taxpayers money on a disparate, fragmented, approach, which is not structured or coordinated across the region.  We have the opportunity with the advent of the Police and Crime Commissioners to drive down crime even further by getting the key agencies to change the system ensuring that we offer a better drug intervention programme in a more organised and structured way.

At present we have essentially 6 different ways based on the work coordinated via our 6 Local Authorities and a patchwork quilt funding approach.  There are isolated examples of good practice largely in the urban areas but it’s not working effectively across the region and it’s not having a big as an impact as it could have.  I want to see radical changes in working practices to break the cycle of drugs and crime and offer one cohesive system across the region from Berwick to Houghton le Spring and Alston to Blyth.

This will allow us to, save many lives, make greater efficiency savings and drive down crime even further.  As PCC my mandate will be to work alongside the Chief Constable to improve the quality of life for residents, reduce crime even further and this is just one example of how we can do it.  We need in every neigbourhood, town and country, new multi agency teams of Neighbourhood Police Officers working alongside drug workers, probation, and the voluntary and charitable sectors.  We need to catch drug offenders on their first offence so that we can break the cycle of drugs and crime and divert them at that early stage away from, drug dependency and despair. “

Thursday, 23 August 2012

No P45's for police officers on my watch I want more!

Everybody is talking about cuts to the police front line but the truth is that not one officer has had a P45 issued to them and in my own home force Northumbria the Chief Constable is recruiting 40 more Constables this year as well as cutting crime.  40 more is great but it's not enough I want more and you might say how many more?  Well enough to ensure that the public gets the service it deserves and expects.  I've now driven over 1000 miles across the region and it's true to say that in some villages in Northumberland they very rarely see a police officer and would dearly love to do so.  So that's the challenge for me as a prospective PCC how do I deliver what the public expects.  Well it's about looking at the extended family of policing, PC's, Special Constables and of course CSO's as well as looking at the interoperability of emergency services especially in more rural locations.  So that's what I'm working on, fighting to protect the front line of policing, slashing bureaucracy and investing in reinfiorcements. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Young person's Police and Crime Commissioner

Following the results of the Sub 21 Wallsend youth project announced at Newcastle University on Tuesday 10th July 2012.  I'm announcing that if I'm elected I will be appointing a ‘Young Person’s Police and Crime Commissioner’ to coordinate youth based community safety initiatives across the Northumbria area.
The Sub 21 project was a young person’s based scheme in the Wallsend area of North Tyneside following concerns about ‘kerbside drinking’ by young people in the area. A range of diversionary activities such as, Body fit, Cookery classes, football, Radio workshops and others were planned , organised at weekends and advertised through local schools and social media sites.
The results of the project saw dramatic reductions in anti social youth disorder down 30% in 2009/10 and a 49% reduction in alcohol related disorder.  These were followed in 2010/11 by a further 9% reduction in anti social youth disorder and in 2011/12 a further reduction of 22% in anti social youth disorder.
Some of the quotes from young people who took part included:
“Cos it’s like keeping us fit and getting us off the drink”
“ I did drink but then since I had more stuff to do on Fridays I don’t drink any more.”
“It’s a good thing for us to do.  It keeps us off the streets and out of trouble.”
I personally believe that The Sub 21 project results are truly enlightening and shows that if activities are organised and advertised successfully the reductions in anti social youth disorder and teenage drinking can be dramatic.  The beauty of this scheme was that once young people got involved they ran things for themselves.  That’s why I want to see a young person take charge of coordinating such schemes across the whole of Northumbria.
Let’s get kids off the streets, stop them drinking and get them involved in some healthy exercise and meaningful activities.  I want to point them in the right direction and then let them get on with it and organise themselves.  That’s why I think a ‘Young Person’s Police and Crime Commissioner’ would be a good idea.
Andrew Brown, Director of Programmes for Mentor UK said:
“Sub 21 is a proven programme that supports the positive aspirations of young people in so doing plays a major part in preventing drug and alcohol misuse.
It’s great to see that Phil wants to adopt this agenda, should he be elected in November.  We urge all Police and Crime Commissioners to invest in evidence based approaches and programmes that reduce the likelihood of young people developing problems with drugs and alcohol or entering the criminal justice system.”

Note:  Sub 21 was supported by the National Social Marketing Centre and funded by North Tyneside PCT and assisted by North Tyneside Council.  The results were commissioned by Mentor UK.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Domestic violence victims set on fire in the North East

 According to Newcastle City Council In the Northumbria Police area there were 4.94 incidents of domestic violence per 1,000 residents in the first three months of 2011/12 – slightly higher than the ‘Most Similar Force’ average of 4.13.But in the same period 50.6 per cent on domestic violence incidents in Northumbria involved a repeat victim – compared to an MSF average of 27.9 per cent – placing Northumbria in the highest group.

Trials of Clare's law will take place in 3 separate police forces in September 2013.  Under the law any person will be able to check whether or not their partner has an abusive past and if they are at threat.  This will be no doubt carried out on a risk-based approach by the police but is an important safeguard.  The trials will take place in Nottinghamshire, Greater Manchester and Wiltshire.Victims of domestic violence may suffer from injury, sexually transmitted infections, anxiety, depression, substance misuse, eating disorders, self harm and suicide. Nationally, two women are murdered every week by their partner or former partner.

In Newcastle victims have been: set on fire, burnt with cigarettes, tied up, starved and beaten, forced to have sex with their partners’ associates, forced to marry men who have raped them and repeatedly kicked until they miscarried.  More than half of all reported incidents of domestic violence in Newcastle involve children who will witness abuse or directly abused themselves.

The peak age group for domestic violence is 20-24 which accounts for 21 per cent of victims in Newcastle in the last three years – the group also most likely to have small children.

In Newcastle 43 per cent of initial child protection conferences had domestic violence as a factor, in 44 per cent of these alcohol misuse was an issue, in 38 per cent drugs misuse and in 27 per cent both drugs and alcohol. See for more details

According to a recent NSPCC study, 12% of under 11s, 18% of 11-17s and 24% of 18-24s had been exposed to domestic abuse between adults in their homes during childhood. Adult males were the perpetrators in 94% of cases where one parent had physically abused another.

In a study of 268 serious case reviews, 34% of cases were found to have domestic abuse as a risk factor.
Brandon, M., Bailey, S. and Belderson, P. (2010) Building on the learning from serious case reviews: a two-year analysis of child protection database notifications 2007-2009. London: Department for Education

Domestic abuse accounts for 18% of all violent crime.
Home Office (2011) Crime in England and Wales 2010/11. London: Home Office

 I know from my own experience how brutal these attacks upon women can be having seen some shocking injuries inflicted by abusive partners.  That's why I'm advocating a change in the law to ensure criminals who commit serious violence or sexual attacks against women, children or the elderly receive 2 strikes and then out, i.e. life imprisonment on second offence. 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Two strikes and out for violent offenders

We had a dreadful case which came to court this week.  The conviction of Graham Jarman for the murder of Mrs Richardson in Hexham illustrates how on occasions the criminal justice system fails us all leading to tragic consequences.  Mrs Richardson an elderly lady, was sitting down to lunch in the quiet rural town of Hexham when Jarman knocked on her door and brutally attacked her with a hammer leaving her for dead.  This was not the first time he had done such a thing and the homicide investigation involved all of the regions police forces trying to track him down.  As is usual his arrest was due to a quick witted member of the public, a Librarian who had saved a photo of him after the police had circulated an appeal for information about his location  His arrest and conviction is a fine example of the region’s police forces and Crown Prosecution Service working together to detain a very dangerous individual.  The ‘manhunt;’ was an excellent piece of detective work by all those involved.  However the fact of the matter is that Jarman should never have been set free to strike in the first place.  He had a string of convictions for robbery, rape and kidnap all of which were of a horrific nature.   On each occasion he was released early from prison allowing him to stalk and prey upon vulnerable women.  His is a case, which is no different to Donald Neilson, ‘the Black Panther’ or Peter Sutcliffe, the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’.  He should never be released from prison ever again.  That’s why I’m advocating that we should have a ‘two strikes and out’ system for violent offenders who attack women, children or the vulnerable.  Once again our region is left with a family grieving for a loved one and I’m sure the impact of this brutal and callous crime will never ever leave them.  We all have a duty to rectify this situation and I believe that we must aim to put victims first and offenders second to redress the present imbalance in our criminal justice system.