Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner Candidates Dialogue Event with VCF Sector Organisations

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On the 29th October, The Merseyside Safer Future Communities Network who represent the Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector organisations over the five boroughs of Merseyside organised a dialogue event which offered four Candidates competing for the post of Police Crime Commissioner in Merseyside an opportunity to present a taster of their plans and aims when in their role of Police Crime Commissioner if they were to be elected, as well as an opportunity for various organisations in the voluntary sector to put forward any questions to be answered by the candidates.

The four Police Crime Commissioner Candidates included • Geoffrey Gubb – Conservative • Hilary Jones – UK Independence Party • Jane Kennedy – Labour • Kiron Reid – Independent

The event opened by Ultan Russell offering each candidate a brief 3 minute introduction into each candidate’s aims and issues they would tackle if elected as Police Crime Commissioner.

Even though Paula Keaveney did not attend the event due to prior commitments, she provided a statement of intent if elected as the Police Crime Commissioner and her support for the network which was read out at the start of the event. Geoffrey Gubb opened by stating how he would concentrate on helping venerable people, tackling crime and anti social behaviour in Merseyside and look to gain greater communication with all communities no matter what age/gender/race/ethnicity they are.

Next, Hilary Jones introduced herself and her aims if elected. Hilary commented how as in her previous work such as being Major of The Wirral she has been heavily involved in the voluntary sector and has had experience and will bring this with her. Hilary also explained how she would build a greater understanding between the police and public by treating low level crimes with the same importance as any other crime.

Jane Kennedy then stated her aims, which included: improved communication between all voluntary sector groups, getting everyone together to get a 360 degree vision on crime in Merseyside, Jane insisted she would stand up to community cuts put in place by Conservative/Liberal democrats’ policies and keep more police on the beat, tackle the pressing matter of gang/gun crime and anti social behaviour. Drawing on the importance of experience in public action and politics.

Finally, Kiron Reid introduced his aims, stating how being a criminal law expert and past experience with working with communities in politics Kiron understands the crime implications and problems in Merseyside. Kiron also stressed the importance of good communication and co-operation of all the organisations to help police as Kiron believes the police cannot solve crime on their own.

Following the introductions, pre-prepared questions were asked before Ultan Russell opened up to the floor to invite any questions for the candidates from the organisations/audience in attendance, which the candidates alternately answered.

Question 1. The VCFSE Sector has a strong track record of working in partnership to ensure services have the greatest impact on communities and provide the best solutions to the people they work with. How do you intend engaging the vcfse sector on an ongoing basis in addressing challenges within Merseyside Criminal Justice System? (Could the PCC VCFSE Network, for example, be of assistance)? Jeff • Speaking with all organisations in the VCFSE Sector at events or on the phone is important • Attending prisons • Asking volunteers for groupings to help fill in gaps for better service • Everyone meeting at events like tonight’s and supporting each other

Kiron • Highlighting importance of talking on the ground with organisations and service users, asking how can the role of PCC help • Not reinventing networking in the sector by talking with councils/police/ government to help do job • Speak to people, using servers to see how it helps Hilary • Communication= Key • Objective of reducing crime means needing to look everywhere and see who works where and where money is being funding, then use this money wisely Jane • 2 key words engagement and challenges • Formal engagement like the dialogue event, or networking 3 or 4 times a year with an ongoing dialogue. Also coming and meeting active services is essential • When approaching a serious issue, all 5 boroughs of Merseyside meet in a one off event, engaging with each other and gathering information Question 2  (from Lindsay Armstrong)  Due to many factors, such as negative portrayal in the media, disabled people are reporting increased levels of disability hate crime.  If elected, will you commit to addressing disability hate crime strongly within the Police and Crime Plan and ensure that police officers and civilian staff receive training on the prevention and identification of such crimes.  In addition, how will you ensure that community safety activity is targeted to meet the needs of those with disabilities, such as blind and partially sighted people?

Kiron • This problem is a priority in police plans • Needs to be addressed, belief about everyone should have quality policing, if any section of society shows evidence of needing better policing, than they will. • Talking to victims and people who work in this area to see what can be helped Hilary • Communication again key – with organisations to make sure there is no overlapping as services may be doing the same job under different guidance • Organisations to have clear jobs and nobody drops through the net • All crime equal, it is a crime not seen as a ‘low level’ crime • Improved efficiency of the police force in community, policing by consent Jane • Blind statements from the victim are a result of hate crime, blind statements will be addressed into their effectiveness and validity • Police officers are badly supported, there will be more work with police to make sure they are aware of hate crime that is under represented as many victims of hate crime do not report the crime • Partnership with all institutions and authorities of society such as to see what can be done  to prevent hate crime  and make venerable people feel safer Jeff • As a governor of a special secondary school this issue is personal and important • There will be appropriate training in the police to tackle and prevent this type of crime • Would strive to make society accept people for ability not disability • Help the victims become more commutable in recording crime- training for police officers to influence this Question 3 (From George Thomas, Beechwood Community Trust) Wirral along with other local authorities in Merseyside receives £121,000 in its Area Based Grant. Merseyside Police also receives £192,000 (Wirral) to the Basic Command Unit. My understanding is this funding is now going directly to the PCC for him or her to use as they see fit. With the potential loss by Merseyside Police of a further 500 police officers how will you be spending these grants. Hilary • Made clear that there will be no political influence on what to spend money on • In relevance of the recent cuts in police officers, it is still possible to recruit police if money is adjusted, looking at the allocated budget • Hard to judge commit until the books are seen, but on the outset there will be no more reduction in this field. Kiron • Budget will not be changed will still be funding to police. • Stated that the police constable has final say on what money is used where, but the police crime commissioner does have influence. So the new police Crime Commissioner cannot create the new system especially in challenging times. • Cannot see any radical change. • Short term issues need long term focus • Community work that helps police will be funded • Raised concern of party bias, will be no bias as independent. Jeff • Cannot make any guarantees until the books are seen • However will not try and fix if it isn’t broken • Problem in finding funding charities that deserve it. • Oath of impartiality is taken Jane • PCC does have power • Fear of outer Merseyside areas that police resources will all be used in the centre of Liverpool, will not be the case • Formal group meetings will be organised to determine how grants are used- partnership approach • Change will happen • Need support from party for funding, but still impartial • If elected will meet with every leader of each 5 boroughs of Merseyside

Question 4 (From Pat Thomas, Adelaide House) Will the Police and Crime Commissioners be involved in local Payment-by-Results programme & schemes? Where do the candidates stand on this subject? How do they envisage it would work locally? Particularly in relation to small voluntary organisations and charities who may have to compete with big nationals like Serco & G4S etc. Jane • Against this process as it will distort the behaviour of co-operative organisations • So would not introduce this policy Hilary • Police crime commissioner needs to look at mission statement of each organisation and see what they can achieve • Amazed by the work of small organisations • But cannot say what every organisation does until meeting with them Kiron • Good idea as governmental funding organisation must be producing results. Some do deliver • Need to quantify everything, with targets set and need each organisation to be hitting their target • Each organisation has a fair chance Jeff • Emphasises the difficulty in assessing the value of each organisations work as all have key roles • Says No to payment by results Questions were then opened to the floor Question 5 (Jacque Pa…) How will you address gendered crime against women? And how will you give confidence to women in law? Jeff • There is a need to talk to experts to see what could be done and what support could be given and what can be improved • Speak to police, look at resources and give training to tackle this problem Jane • Showed statistics that in Knowsley alone there are 90/100 cases of domestic violence every month, showing how there is a high level of risk • This problem is not being managed • However other districts are, need to look at every aspect of failing districts • Need to help jurors not to bring in any prejudices as if prejudices are present hen  cannot bring justice, need for other ways of bringing justice Kiron • Attitudes and awareness changing • Conviction rates need changing too • Also expresses need to help jurors not to bring in any prejudices as if prejudices are present then  cannot bring justice, need for other ways of bringing justice Hilary • Highlights the problem of mental abuse too • Highlights also need for women to have some autonomy and leave abusive relationships • Need to improve the subtlety of safe houses The candidates where then presented questions from the floor. Question 5 (from Hannah Ryan) Violence against women is not seen as a hate crime even though there is evidence to suggest it should be as there is a relationship with gender and inequality. What is your prevention strategy in violence against women? Hilary • Proposed her prepared strategy Jeff • Work with organisations who are experts • Need to look at prevention rather than cure Jane • Need to propose the question of hate crime • Not enough crimes against women are reported • Need to educate both boys and girls young enough to understand this field • Need to look at prevention rather than cure Kiron • The justice system needs to be re-assessed in police response and court handing • Need for help off organisations • Cannot be seen as a hate crime, as women take up 50% of the population

Question 6 (from ‘The Basement’, previous service user) There has been a strategy of ‘moving on’ homeless people as they are seen as displaying anti social behaviour, or locking them in a cell, even though it would be less costly to help them by setting up some kind of facility or point them towards an organisation that can help. What can be done to help this problem? And help realise that they are one of the most prone groups to anti social behaviour. Jeff • As has been seen in the Wet Shelter, ideas like this show encouraging results in helping homeless people feel safe as a citizen, as they can have a place to spend time and get in contact with organisations that can help Jane • They need to w • ell represented in the criminal justice system • Given a chance through community orders • And offered help from other services such as mental health services • Need to make them feel safe Hilary • Suggests Anti social behaviour effects everyone • There needs to be separate groups from all groups in society to help them Kiron • Negative media makes it hard for homeless to get help • Needs more ideas like the wet shelter • Need for better policing to deal with problem

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