Labour candidate in police and crime commissioner election spells out priorities

Paul Richards

Five candidates who hope to become the Sussex police and crime commissioner (PCC) are standing for election on Thursday 6 May.

They are the incumbent Katy Bourne (Conservative) and four challengers – Jamie Bennett (Liberal Democrat), Kahina Bouhassane (Green), Paul Richards (Labour and Co-operative) and Roy Williams (Independent).

Each candidate was sent a dozen questions which were submitted by community groups and voters.

Below are the responses from Labour candidate Paul Richards.

Why do you want to be the police and crime commissioner for Sussex?

People across Sussex, from Crawley to Chichester, from Brighton to Bexhill, are telling me it is time for a change.

After a decade of the Conservatives, crime in Sussex is up and police numbers are down.

People are looking anew at Keir Starmer’s Labour Party and seeing that Labour is back as the party of justice, security, law and order.

What will you bring to the role?

My priorities

1) More neighbourhood policing at the heart of our community, reflecting local concerns, listening to local voices, preventing crime and anti-social behaviour.

2) More support for victims of crime and for witnesses. With the Tory courts backlog, the danger is that cases will not come to court for years and victims will not bring prosecutions.

3) More investment in preventative services like boxing clubs and sports facilities, like the BMX track I visited in Sidley, Bexhill, the other day.

What is it that a commissioner can do that a Police and Crime Panel can’t – and does the extra cost incurred by the office of the PCC provide value for money?

The role provides some visibility and accountability in ways a committee doesn’t but until we get higher turnouts, the role will lack legitimacy.

I believe the current set-up is wasteful. For a start, I would donate half of my salary as police and crime commissioner to police and victims’ charities and cut down on central expenses.

Should PCCs serve only two terms, like American presidents? What grounds are there for serving more than two terms as PCC?

Yes, there should be a two-term limit. This should not be a job for life but, instead, be the chance to serve your community.

If you can’t achieve what you want in eight years, you probably aren’t going to.

What would you say to those migrants, refugees and people from black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities who are wary of the police? How would you respond to concerns that stop and search affects some communities disproportionately?

There is a huge job to be done to build trust and confidence between Sussex police and people of colour, ethnic minorities, and other marginalised communities like migrants and refugees.

We need to rebuild trust with the LGBTQ-plus community and with women after the Shana Grice case.

Trust can only be built painstakingly but it starts with police training and procedures.

I will look at the results of the pilot scheme in Sussex for the use of serious violence reduction orders (SVRO) to tackle knife crime.

If “stop and search” is disproportionately affecting one ethnic group (which it is), then we must look at it again.

The Sussex Police stop and search scrutiny panel must be allowed full access to the figures and its recommendations must be taken seriously.

Vigils for Sarah Everard and protests by Extinction Rebellion and the Black Lives Matter movement have ended with riot police dragging people away while the English Defence League and other far-right groups are handled with kid gloves. How would you balance responses to different protests?

The right to protest peacefully is enshrined in our law but it must never be abused by fascists or racists who make our streets unsafe.

The police need to police demonstrations with greater sensitivity if it is clear public safety is not under threat, such as the recent vigils in Brighton, Shoreham and elsewhere.

But there’s zero excuse for abusing or attacking the police.

How will you ensure that women and girls are safe from male violence and abuse in their schools, on the streets and in their homes?

I would start with male culture, attitudes, language and actions – and a robust programme of education and explanation about what is and isn’t appropriate.

I would ensure all police are trained to take women’s complaints seriously.

I welcome that police forces are recording crimes motivated by sex or gender, in effect making misogyny a hate crime.

We need more police on the streets, for example, along Brighton seafront, where women are routinely harassed, and use the full power of the law to prosecute offenders.

How will you work with Sussex Police to learn from cases like Shana Grice’s murder, making sure officers are trained and women are taken seriously when they report crimes?

The murder of Shana Grice is such a terrible tragedy and raises such important issues about how women are treated within the criminal justice system.

I would start with the recruitment process, initial police training, ongoing professional development and, at every stage, train men how to deal with women’s concerns.

I would push for more women officers to be recruited and end the old-fashioned canteen culture where it still lingers.

How do we get the police to work with councils, to patrol where and at the times people want them to?

My concept of neighbourhood policing includes local crime prevention agreements between local communities and neighbourhood teams, agreeing priorities, and a service-level agreement on visible policing.

How do you think Sussex Police can balance the policing needs of its busy urban areas without neglecting country villages?

I am concerned about rising rural crime, including theft of agricultural equipment, damage to property and illegal blood sports.

The key is my plan to put more police on the beat, including in Sussex villages and rural areas.

How committed are you to ensuring that the police enforce the 2004 Hunting Act?

I am 100 per cent committed to Sussex Police enforcing the 2004 Hunting Act, introduced by the Labour government, which bans the hunting of foxes, deer, hares and mink with dogs.

There is no excuse for blood sports and no place for it in our rural communities.

I have nothing against the spectacle of local hunts. The law allows drag hunting. Nor am I opposed to shooting or angling.

How will you tackle drug-related crime?

I favour a public health approach to addiction and treatment, helping people avoid drugs or beat their addiction to drugs.

The criminal justice system should be focused on the organised crime gangs profiteering from drugs, not those whose lives are ruined by them. Sussex Police must continue to focus on disrupting county lines and protecting young people.

More police, closer to our communities, more support for victims and witnesses, more investment in youth services and sports. That’s the difference a Labour and Co-op police and crime commissioner will make.

For more information visit …
Website labourinsussex.org.uk
Twitter @labourpaul

  1. Jennifer T Reply

    Vote Labour and get Green. He wishes to prevent anti-social behaviour but his party voted for a bill to allow drug addicts to come to Brighton from all over the UK and to be allowed to freely beg and have tents in the town centre. If he had worked in the City he would realise how difficult it is to be expected to work with these people driving away shoppers and frequently doing things to threaten your staff. This costs jobs and reduces the investment people are prepared to put into the city.

    At a time when we should have had real opposition in Brighton and the country we get presented with this lot of wet blankets.

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