More than 5,000 motorists have been caught drink-driving multiple times

More than 5,000 motorists have been caught drink-driving on more than one occasion in the past four years, it has emerged.

Of the 5,181 repeat offenders, 4,879 drivers were caught drunk at the wheel twice, 275 were caught three times and one driver was caught six times, the figures reveal.

The data was obtained from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) via a freedom of information request submitted by the road safety charity Brake.

The scale of repeat offending uncovered has prompted Brake to call on the courts to increase the number of driving bans handed out to keep “unsafe drivers off the road”.

Courts urged to hand out more driving bans

Brake has also asked the Government to give the green light to proposals to introduce “alcohol interlocks” to drink-driver rehabilitation programmes in the UK.

Alcohol interlocks are automatic control systems designed to prevent driving with excess alcohol by requiring the driver to blow into an in-car breathalyser before starting the ignition. The devices are already used in drink-drive offender rehabilitation schemes in the US and Sweden.

What are the penalties for drink-driving?

Motorists caught driving, or attempting to drive, while above the legal limit or while unfit due to alcohol can receive an unlimited fine; a driving ban of at least one year; or a six-month prison sentence, with the penalty decided by the magistrates who hear the case.

Anyone convicted of two drink-driving offences within 10 years can face a three-year driving ban.

‘Devastating consequences’

“Driving over the alcohol limit can have devastating consequences, so it is shocking to see thousands of drivers have been caught drink driving at least twice in the past four years,” said Joshua Harris, a Brake spokesman.

He added: “What is worse is that many of these drivers shouldn’t have been on the roads to offend again, if the full extent of the law had been used.”


More on drink-driving

The post More than 5,000 motorists have been caught drink-driving multiple times appeared first on

Read More

Four teenage boys deny attacking lesbian couple on bus for ‘refusing to kiss’

Four teenagers accused of attacking a lesbian couple on a London bus have appeared on bail to deny the charges against them.

Two 17-year-olds, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, none of whom can be named for legal reasons, appeared at Highbury Corner Youth Court in north London.

Melania Geymonat, 28, referred to as Melania Remirez in proceedings, and her 29-year-old American date Christine Hannigan, were allegedly harassed on the night bus.

The group of boys are accused of approaching the couple, sitting behind them, and asking lewd questions before throwing coins at them and demanding that they kissed.

‘Homophobic attack’

All four defendants were charged with using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour. They all pleaded not guilty.

The group filed into court, all dressed in casual clothing, accompanied by their parents and solicitors.

Read more:

Nationwide protests against LGBT-inclusive education planned for September

Arlene De Silva, prosecuting, said the Crown Prosecution Services alleges the attack was “homophobically aggravated”.

The court heard that the two women had been showing affection to each other shortly before the alleged altercation.

Ms De Silva told the court: “Two of the defendants came to the front of the bus. They sat behind them and started to make comments to them in reference to their sexual orientation.

The attack is alleged to have taken place on a London bus (Photo: Getty)

“One of the complainants said she spoke to them trying to deflect their behaviour and she described that the group continued to be disrespectful to them.

“They wanted the complainants to perform for them. They tried to get the couple to kiss while calling them names. She states that on of them began throwing coins at them. She said ‘throw another coin and see what happens.’

“There was then an altercation between them and then the defendants left the bus.”

Released on bail

One of the 17-year-olds, from Earl’s Court, west London, was also charged with possessing cannabis, which he denied.

The 15-year-old, also from Earl’s Court, faces a further charge of handling Ms Geymonat’s stolen bank card which he also denied.

They tried to get the couple to kiss while calling them names. She states that on of them began throwing coins at them

Arlene De Silva, prosecuting

The 16-year-old, from Tooting, south London, was also charged with handling the stolen phone and for stealing a handbag.

He pleaded not guilty to handling the phone, but pleaded guilty to stealing the handbag.

The four teenagers are accused of committing the offences on a night bus in north London in the early hours of Thursday May 30 this year.

They have all been released on bail but three have been ordered not to contact each other or any witnesses.

Their trial is due to take place in November.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

More crime

The post Four teenage boys deny attacking lesbian couple on bus for ‘refusing to kiss’ appeared first on

Read More

PC Andrew Harper death: Man, 20, charged over murder of police officer

A 20 year-old man is due to appear in court charged with the murder of police officer, Andrew Harper, who was killed last week while investigating a burglary.

Pc Harper was killed last Thursday evening in the village of Sulhamstead in Berkshire after being dragged under the wheels of a vehicle.

The 28-year-old newlywed, who was possibly hit by a police car, died from multiple injuries.

Jed Foster, 20, was charged with his murder on Monday evening after investigators at Thames Valley Police were granted an extra 24 hours to question 10 suspects.

Further charges

He is further charged with the theft of a quad bike.

Foster is due to appear at Reading Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

All 10 suspects were arrested within an hour of the incident at a nearby caravan park.

Jed Foster, 20, has been charged with murder (Photo: Getty)

The youngest was just 13 years old, while the oldest was 30.

The remaining nine have been bailed until September 13.

On Monday evening, the victim’s wife Lissie Harper paid tribute to her husband, describing him as “the kindest, loveliest, most selfless” person.

She wrote: “There is not enough paper in the world to even begin to write a tribute for you, but no one deserves it more.”

Wife’s tribute

Andrew Harper’s wife, Lissie Harper, had only been married to him for four weeks when he died.

On Monday evening, she paid tribute to him in an open letter.

She finished it with: “Although we were married for only 28 days before you were cruelly taken away from me, my husband you were perfect. I will never ever stop loving you and I feel so grateful for the happiest thirteen years of my life.

“Our superman, our bodyguard, our light in the dark. My god we will miss you. Forever you will be remembered as the best of us.”

Crown Prosecution response

Chief Crown Prosecutor Jaswant Narwal, said that following the death of PC Harper in Berkshire, the Crown Prosecution Service authorised Thames Valley Police to charge a 20 year-old man with murder and the theft of a quad bike.

“We will offer to meet with PC Harper’s family to explain the basis of the decision we have made following a lengthy review of the evidence available,” she said.

Additional reporting from Press Association. 

More on crime:

The post PC Andrew Harper death: Man, 20, charged over murder of police officer appeared first on

Read More

Cruise worker ‘tricked couple into revealing passcode to stolen iPhone in game of Mr and Mrs’

A cruise ship worker was sacked after he allegedly tricked a passenger into telling him the passcode of her husband’s missing mobile phone during a game of ‘Mr and Mrs’.

Paul Tierney, 54, mislaid his iPhone 7 on the first morning of a week-long, £2,600 Mediterranean cruise with his wife Janet.

They believe that crew member Suar Andika got his hands on the device after it went missing.

When the barman spotted it belonged to the couple, he allegedly pulled them on stage to play the popular quiz, which involves sharing details about each other.

Lost phone

Paul Tierney with wife Janet
Paul Tierney with wife Janet (Photo: Getty)

On the first morning aboard the ship, Paul realised he couldn’t find his iPhone 7 Plus.

Read More:

Rural crime and why thefts from farms are no laughing matter for police

The couple retraced their steps, searched the ship and asked staff if the phone had been handed in as lost property, without any luck, so he cancelled the sim card.

Janet said: “Paul was convinced he brought it onto the ship with him. But it could have slipped out of his pocket anywhere.

“But we thought if it’s gone then it’s gone and we just assumed it had been lost.”

Favourite wine bar

The couple regularly enjoyed going on cruises
The couple regularly enjoyed going on cruises (Photo: Getty)

The couple decided to spend the evening in their favourite on-board wine bar on the fourth night when they were asked to take part in the Mr and Mrs style game show.

The barman is said to have asked Janet if she knew Paul’s pin code to his phone as part of the game, which she promptly blurted out by accident.

One of the questions the game show host asked Janet was “what is the passcode number to Paul’s phone?”, she claims.

Janet said: “I didn’t really think at the time but Paul said to me afterwards that if anyone onboard has the phone then you’ve given the password away.

“He must have started using the phone soon after. The person in the photos is the same barman. We couldn’t believe it.”

‘Janet is in total shock’

Paul Tierney with wife Janet in 2018 on a cruise ship (Photo: Getty)

When they got home and Paul synced his new phone with his iCloud he was furious to discover it was filled with photos and videos of Suar and his colleagues.

Father-of-three Paul, from Kirby, Liverpool, said: “When we saw the photos for the first time I was more than shocked.

“This holiday will never be remembered for anything other reason than this horrible experience. Janet was in total shock. Neither of us could believe what we were seeing.”

He added: “It made us feel sick. He seemed like a nice guy to us and was very charming. But he’s a despicable person. It’s disgusting what he did.”

Invasion of privacy

Cruise barman Suar Andika (Photo: SWNS)

Paul and Janet were “gobsmacked” five days later, when Paul set up his new iPhone and found more than a dozen photos and videos of the barman from the Mr and Mrs Quiz on his iCloud.

It’s not known how the barman got the phone, and if he simply found it on board.

Read More:

Man and woman from Essex released over ‘mass brawl’ at buffet of British P&O cruise ship

“I was more than shocked. I couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We just thought ‘oh my god’.

“He must have known all along it was our phone. The screensaver was of the two of us.

“What he did was unbelievable and not acceptable in anyway, shape or form. He invaded our private lives and we are sickened by it. The videos and photos are just awful.”


MSC customer services worker said following a “swift and proactive investigation” took place the phone was retrieved from the individual.

The crew member in question was “escorted off the ship”, sacked and “will never work for MSC again”, the company said.

MSC offered the couple £500 worth of vouchers to spend with the company, but Paul and Janet rejected the goodwill offer, they said.

It is not known if the worker admitted stealing the phone himself or if he claimed to have got it from someone else in good faith.

More News

The post Cruise worker ‘tricked couple into revealing passcode to stolen iPhone in game of Mr and Mrs’ appeared first on

Read More

James Bulger killers: here’s what happened to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson after the murder

The murder of two-year-old James Bulger shocked Britain.

In 1993, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables abducted, tortured and murdered the toddler after leading him away from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside.

The child murderers were sent to a young offenders’ institute, where they stayed until their release at the age of 18 in 2001.

They were both given new identities on the understanding that they had been rehabilitated and did not break the law again.

Bulger’s parents have said the senseless murder devastated their family, and have spoken frankly about how they struggled to keep going after the loss, and the huge public interest in their family.

What happened to Jon Venables?

The child murderer was born 13 August 1982, making him ten-years-old when he abducted Bulger from the New Strand Shopping Centre.

He was found guilty, alongside Thompson, on 24 November 1993 – when the pair became the youngest people convicted of murder in English history.

Jon Venables, 10 years of age, poses for a mugshot for police (Getty Images)

Venables was given extensive rehabilitation during his time in a young offenders’ institute and was issued with a new identity after leaving.

His identity has been changed twice since, after he compromised his identity and told friends he was a convicted murderer.

His current identity faced a legal threat in February 2018, 25 years after the murder, when Bulger’s father launched High Court proceedings to try and remove Venables’ entitlement to anonymity.

The lawyer representing Bulger’s father and uncle argued that the right to anonymity had only been granted on the understanding Venables did not re-offend.

Denise Fergus, James Bulger’s mother, stands with her husband Stuart as she speaks to the press (Getty Images)

As Venables has been convicted of crimes since, they wanted his lifelong privacy revoked. Bulger’s mother, however, disagreed and argued that the anonymity should be maintained to avoid vigilante justice.

The father lost his legal challenge and the Attorney General’s office concluded the injunction was still necessary and justified.

Has Jon Venables committed other crimes?

In 2008, seven years after being released from prison, Venables was arrested after a drunken fight and was given a formal warning by the probation service. He was also given a caution for being in possession of Class A drug cocaine.

Two years later he was sent back to prison after he was found with images of child sexual abuse.

The Parole Board recommended his release in 2013. However, in 2017 he was arrested again for possessing child abuse images, and sentenced to 40 months behind bars in February 2018, almost 25 years to the day after he murdered Bulger.

In August 2019, his father warned that Venables will soon be on parole from his most recent period behind bars.

A parole hearing is expected to be held in October, half way through his prison sentence for the most recent offence.

Mr Bulger said: “Venables is up for parole any time now, and if it is granted he will be released into the community under a fake name and secret new identity.

“He is a dangerous, predatory child abuser and killer, and I am terrified he will strike again and harm another child like my James.”

What happened to Robert Thompson?

Thompson’s new identity is protect by an unprecedented injunction, which applies around the world, meaning that even searching for his address could lead to a prison sentence.

He has not re-offended since being released, and in 2010 it was reported he was in a long-term relationship with a man who knows his true identity.

Thompson’s father left the family home five years before the attack in 1993, and his mother was an alcoholic and had depression.

He had no history of violence prior to the murder.

Robert Thompson, 10 years of age, poses for a mugshot for British police (Getty Images)

Police believe that Thompson was the ringleader behind the attack, who urged Venables to follow him.

Detective Phil Roberts, from the local force’s serious crime squad, received the call in 1993 notifying him of a missing boy.

“As far as I’m concerned that day — 20 years ago — I stared evil in the face,” he has said.

“I think Thompson was in charge, but they both attacked James.

A surveillance camera shows the abduction of two-year-old James Bulger from the Bootle Strand shopping mall February 12 1993 at 3:42pm near Liverpool. (Getty Images)

“They were a match made in hell. A freak of nature. They went out that day to kill — I truly believe that. And if they hadn’t been caught I fear they would have struck again.

“Pure evil, I will never change my mind about that.”

More news

The post James Bulger killers: here’s what happened to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson after the murder appeared first on

Read More

Northern Ireland bomb: Police escape injury after ‘deliberate murder attempt’ in Fermanagh

An explosive device has detonated in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, shortly after police dismissed claims of a hoax in the area.

Police and Army bomb disposal officers had been sent to the area close to the border with Ireland following reports of a device.

The item they discovered was declared a hoax, but but a genuine device exploded close-by at around 10.35am on Monday when Ammunition Technical Officers (ATO) were reviewing the scene. Police were also in attendance, patrolling a security cordon.

No one was injured in the blast, authorities said.

Deliberate murder attempt

Northern Ireland has faced a number of threats in recent months (Photo: Getty)

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: “While this investigation is at a very early stage I am of the firm belief this was a deliberate attempt to lure police and ATO colleagues into the area to murder them.

Read more:

Northern Ireland Office ‘has failed to promote benefits of the Union’ warns veteran Tory adviser

“Although this device was intended to kill police and Army personnel the fact that it was placed on a main road the result could well have been devastating for anyone in the immediate vicinity.”

Mr Martin added: “This attack was indiscriminate and reckless and, whilst there is no doubt in my mind that police responding to this call were the target, the reality is that anyone could have been caught up in the explosion.”

He said the investigation is likely to examine whether either the Continuity IRA or the New IRA are behind the attack.

“We are of the belief this attack has been carried out by dissident republican groupings, the two who have been most active this year in Northern Ireland have been the Continuity IRA and the New IRA, and I think one of those groups would be a very good starting point for the investigation,” he told a press conference at PSNI headquarters in Belfast.

“The Continuity IRA have been present for a long time, but I think it is fair to say their level of activity has increased this year.”

Public condemnation

The police said it was only thanks to officers’ actions that nobody was injured by the detonation.

The area around the scene will remain closed for some time while officers survey the area, the force added.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew condemned the attack (Photo: Getty)

Dissident extremists continue to target members of the security forces in Northern Ireland.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew condemned those responsible for Monday’s incident.

“This morning’s bomb attack in Wattle Bridge was totally wrong,” the Sinn Fein representative told media.

“Thankfully no one was injured in this incident but we could have been dealing with a situation where people were seriously injured or worse.

“Those responsible for this incident have nothing to offer society and need to end these actions immediately.”

Recent attacks

The latest attack comes during rising tensions in Northern Ireland.

Read more:

Northern Ireland Office’s shambles over Queen’s portrait hints at deeper problem

Last month, a booby trap bomb was left on the Tullygally Road in Craigavon, County Armagh, as police attended a call-out from a member of the public.

Commanders said it was a set up to lure officers into the area ahead of the murder bid.

In June, a serving police officer had a lucky escape when he found an under-car booby trap bomb attached to the underside of his vehicle in a golf club car park in east Belfast.

Additional reporting by Press Association. 

More on Northern Ireland

The post Northern Ireland bomb: Police escape injury after ‘deliberate murder attempt’ in Fermanagh appeared first on

Read More

Home Office stabbing: Birmingham man Dominic Hornberger charged after knife attack on civil servant

A man from Birmingham has been charged in connection with an attack on a civil servant who was stabbed outside the Home Office last week.

The victim, aged in his 60s, was attacked on Marsham Street on 15 August. He works for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and went to the nearby Home Office for help after suffering knife wounds.

Dominic Hornberger, 29, was charged with grievous bodily harm and possession of a knife in a public place Friday. He appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday, Scotland Yard said.

Mr Hornberger has been remanded in custody and is to appear at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 13 September, according to police.

The incident

Police confirmed the victim’s injuries were not life threatening nor life changing (Photo: Getty)

Police were called to the site in Westminster on Thursday afternoon, following a report of a man with a knife.

Responding to an emergency call, armed officers had arrived at Marsham Street to find a man in his 60s with knife injuries.

London Ambulance Service attended the address and took the victim to a central London hospital. The victim’s injuries were reported at the time to be neither life threatening nor life changing.

Not terrorist related

Officers quickly detained a 29-year-old man, who was found near the scene at Smith Square, the police said at the time.

The police statement gave no information about the suspect’s background or indication of a possible motive.

On the day of the incident, police had said the attack was not thought to be related to terrorism.

Additional reporting from Press Association and Reuters.

More on London:

The post Home Office stabbing: Birmingham man Dominic Hornberger charged after knife attack on civil servant appeared first on

Read More

More than £70,000 in donations flood in to support family of killed Pc Andrew Harper

More than £70,000 has been donated to the family of police officer Andrew Harper, who died after being struck and dragged by a vehicle, while on duty.

The 28-year-old, who had got married several weeks before and was due to go on his honeymoon, was killed while investigating a burglary in Bradfield Southend in Berkshire, late on Thursday.

Donations have come flooding in to a Just Giving page set up by the Thames Valley Police Federation, with a goal of raising £100,000 for the family of the officer from the Roads Policing Proactive Unit in Abingdon, who “tragically gave his life while on duty protecting the public”.

The page said police across the country “confront danger on a daily basis” as they go to work.


“We know there is a risk when we put on the uniform but we do so as we are proud to protect the public,” a statement on the donation page said.

“Sadly, on very rare and horrendous occasions, a colleague makes the ultimate sacrifice. We will ensure that heroism is never forgotten,” it added.

“All our thoughts remain with Andrew’s wife, family, friends and close colleagues.”

A police officer lays a floral tribute at the scene Pc Harper, 28, died. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)
A police officer lays a floral tribute at the scene Pc Harper, 28, died (Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)

Further donations have streamed into a separate fundraising page set up by PC Harper himself before he died, for the charity Children With Cancer UK.

The officer had planned to take part in the 20 Mile 200 Obstacle Dirty Weekend race and had set a fundraising target of £500.

Donations on the page have now surpassed £17,170 for the charity.

He wrote on the appeal: “Please support me in this goal and help us fight for those who can’t fight for themselves”.

Investigations continue 

As well-wishers continue to donate and send messages of support to the victim’s family, murder police are continuing to investigate his death and how the events of the night unfolded.

They are still questioning 10 suspects, including a 13-year-old boy, who were arrested at a caravan park near the scene by Thames Valley Police.

They were given additional time to quiz the suspects, Detective Superintendent Ailsa Kent told reporters on Saturday.

Police we investigating the site around country roads near the Four Houses Corner caravan park on Sunday.

On Saturday, forensic officers gathered around what appeared to be a black hatchback car inside the park.


Tributes have flooded in for the fallen police officer, on the donation pages and at the scene of his death.

One message from a well-wisher on the Just Giving page said: “A young man who was decent, caring and made it his job to look after us and keep us safe.”

Several expressed their condolences to his widow Lissie, who had married Pc Harper  four weeks ago.

Thames Valley Chief Constable John Campbell said on Friday, PC Harper was a “highly regarded, popular member of the team”.

Police search the scene in Berkshire (Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Pc Harper’s father, Philip, said the family have been “absolutely devastated” by the death, telling Sky News: “We’re in a bad place.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and appalled” by the “mindless and brutal” attack, while Home Secretary Priti Patel “instructed the Home Office to urgently explore what we can do to better support the families of our brave police officers who are seriously injured or worse by cowardly criminals”.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

More UK News

The post More than £70,000 in donations flood in to support family of killed Pc Andrew Harper appeared first on

Read More

Journalist Owen Jones attacked in ‘pre-meditated assault’ as he celebrated his birthday

Journalist Owen Jones was attacked in what he called a “pre-meditated assault” by a gang as he was celebrating his birthday.

Mr Jones, who describes himself anti-fascist, Socialist, says he believes the attackers were far-right thugs.

Police confirmed to i that they are investigating a reported assault outside a pub in Islington, north London.

“Local CCTV footage will be reviewed. A number of witnesses have also been spoken to and further statements will be taken in due course,” a police spokesperson said.

In a series of tweets, Jones describes the attack.

‘Kicked me in the skull’

“This is a bit dramatic, so firstly I’m fine, but last night – when I was celebrating my birthday – I was attacked, along with my friends, in a blatant premeditated assault.

“Six of us left the pub at 3am and were saying our goodbyes 30 metres away, then a group of 3-4 men left the pub, made a beeline for me, kicked me in the back, threw me on the ground, slamming my head, and kicked me in the skull. My friends were punched trying to defend me.

“The group then scarpered: I don’t know if they said anything in the melee. I’m fine other than a big bump on my head and a cut back.

“Given the far right attacks I’ve had in the streets, and generally escalating far right threats I’ve had, I’m in no doubt as to what this is.”

Owen Jones at a rally against austerity in January (Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty)
Owen Jones at a rally against austerity in January (Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty)

‘Dangerous’ times

Jones has previously found himself the target of verbal abuse from pro-Brexit supporters.

He was subject to homophobic abuse from hecklers at an anti-austerity rally , the Huff Post reported in January.

He says the far-right threat is growing and it is not the first time that they have found him.

After his latest trouble, Labour front bencher Diane Abbott tweeted: “Shocking to hear about this attack on you & your friends. The times we live in are increasingly dark and dangerous. You have all my love & support. Solidarity.”

The Met Police confirmed a man in his 30s reported an attack by four people outside a pub at 2am on Saturday.

They added that no one needed hospital treatment and no arrests have been made.

In line with long-standing practice, police do not confirm the identify of victims.

They refused to say if it was being investigated as a hate crime but added that inquiries are continuing.

More police

The post Journalist Owen Jones attacked in ‘pre-meditated assault’ as he celebrated his birthday appeared first on

Read More

Security tightens around English Premier League players as dangerous gangs target superstars

When Arsenal’s Sead Kolašinac – known to Gooners as “The Tank” – faced down knife-wielding thugs on a north London street last month he was hailed for his bravery after CCTV footage of the botched drive-by heist went viral. Mesut Özil darted for cover in a nearby restaurant while the 26-year-old left back Kolašinac took on the assailants with bare hands.

Both players are expected to return to Premier League action this weekend – but their show of defiance was probably the last thing the club and police wanted to happen.

Security expert Alex Bomberg said Özil and Kolašinac should have been briefed on the correct procedure during such an attack – and that means flight rather than fight.

“Not putting themselves at risk and driving to the nearest police station is exactly what they should have been doing,” said Mr Bomberg, chief executive of Intelligent Protection International Ltd, a close-protection and security firm operating in Britain and France.  When you’re travelling in a vehicle, the only real time when you’re at risk is when it goes static. If [they] had a close-protection officer with [them], they would know where the nearest police stations and hospitals are. It’s their job to know those things,” he told i.

Arsenal’s Sead Kolašinac (left) and Mesut Özil were attacked by a knife-wielding masked gang in north London on  25 July (Photo: BBC)


Mr Bomberg said clubs should take more responsibility as crimes against high-profile players and their families become more common. He adds: “I think there’ll be a bit of expenditure by a couple of clubs and then nothing will happen. A player getting injured will not change football clubs taking more responsibility. However, I think it will take a player’s family being seriously injured for here to be a change.”

Detectives fear the incident may have triggered a violent turf war between rival Eastern European gangs operating in the UK. Figures suggest citizens from at least 134 different countries are involved in organised crime.

Now, fresh concerns among wealthy players and rich homeowners in some of the UK’s most exclusive postcodes has seen them step up their security detail to ward off targeted attacks.

Özil, 30, was spotted leaving his home in Hampstead, north London, with a minder in tow on Wednesday – days after two men were arrested following a reported altercation with security staff outside the £9m property. The Metropolitan Police said two men aged 27 have been charged with harassment offences and will appear in court on 6 September.


Many security companies are equipped to deal with “special risks” – characterised as kidnapping, product tampering and blackmail. When protection firms are hired, staff will typically carry out a security audit.

“We’d look at the alarm system, how it’s monitored and would put a police response on it,” Mr Bomberg said.

“For at-risk individuals we would put a panic button on the alarm system and one in their bedroom. Dogs are good and if you’ve got big grounds they’re great because they will pick up on scents. But you’ve got to be very careful because they’re like humans; you’ve got to rest them – you can’t overwork them.”

Risk assessments would be carried out if the individual planned to attend a public event – and security would be beefed up if he or she was accompanied by a partner or family.

Arsenal manager Unai Emery said the wellbeing of Özil and Kolašinac is his prime concern. (Photo: John Walton/PA Wire)


Separate security-trained drivers and bodyguards would be deployed and at least one bodyguard would shadow the VIP’s wife.

“It can be difficult [advising] a mother of young kids – they’re busy looking after their family, travelling from A to B and have other things going on,” Mr Bomberg said.

“But we would talk through to them exactly what to do and [what] scenarios are really good. For example: ‘What would you do if you’re parking the car at Waitrose and suddenly someone recognises you and starts screaming at you through your car window?’

“A lot of people would wind down the window [but] we suggest staying put, beeping the horn and drawing attention to yourself. A lot of people don’t think about self-help but if you have a couple of young kids with you then that raises the dynamic.”

It’s understood that many Premier League clubs have contracted security and close protection is available to players. But a source with knowledge of security for high-net-worth individuals noted a reluctance to hire above adequate security detail. For top-flight footballers earning up to £300,000 a week, the annual cost of appropriate protection is equivalent to 10 days’ wages.


The attack on the Arsenal players has pushed Britain’s murky underworld into the spotlight. It’s believed that the footballers became unwittingly tangled in a vicious gangland feud between two rival Eastern European gangs – which blew up after the attempted carjacking last month. One mob threatened the Premier League stars, saying they would take “everything they have” after another clan warned that the players were “off limits”, according to a report in The Sun. Since then, both men have significantly increased their security detail but Kolašinac’s wife, Bella, has reportedly returned to Germany.

Serious and organised crime costs the UK economy £37bn a year, according to a 2019 National Crime Agency (NCA) report. An estimated 4,629 crime groups, made up of 34,000 members are thought to be operating in the country – and many offences are believed to go unreported. While British citizens make up the bulk of these networks, Pakistani, Polish, Romanian and Albanian criminals are among the several hundred members of the illicit rackets. It was revealed this week that 876 Albanians are imprisoned in the UK – putting them at the top of the list of jailed foreigners.

According to Anna Sergi, a criminologist, the capital has become a “playground for smash-and-grab robbers, petty thieves and gangsters seeking to expand their territory“.

Lynne Owens, director general of the NCA, said the scale of organised crime is “staggering” and called for a £2.7bn investment to fight it over the next three years. She said: “Failing to invest will result in the gradual erosion of our capabilities and our ability to protect the public.”

Lynne Owens, director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA) has called for a £2.7bn investment to fight organised crime over the next three years (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Social media spying

Researchers have explored how crime networks are exploiting social media platforms to gain insight into the “identification of allies and victims, to the execution of operational capacities”, reported a 2015 study in the Journal of Complex Operations.

But Dr Paul Gill, a senior lecturer at the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science at University College London (UCL), told i that using open-source intelligence to develop plans is “nothing new”.

“In the early 1970s, a Provisional IRA leader remarked that 85 per cent of the intelligence they collected came from media and open sources,” he said.

“Often celebrities and members of the public alike unwittingly provide crucial information online that they would never think about saying one-to-one with a stranger. It should not come as a surprise that criminals will make use of these opportunities. As technology changes, new forms of crime will emerge. Policy-makers, police and intelligence will need to pre-empt and mitigate these emerging threats before it is too late.”

‘Vital policing’

An NCA spokesperson told i: “The threat from serious and organised crime is chronic and corrosive, evolving as it adapts to our changing society.

“These groups are preying on the most vulnerable in society and we know criminal networks are becoming more extensive and sophisticated and in many cases, are prepared to use greater levels of violence.

“Visible, front-line policing is vital to public safety, but the reality is that we will not defeat serious and organised crime with beat officers alone.

“Some of the capabilities we need are most effectively and efficiently delivered at the local or regional level. Others, however, the NCA must deliver on a national basis, providing the right agencies with the right capabilities at the right time to deliver maximum impact.”

More Long Reads

The post Security tightens around English Premier League players as dangerous gangs target superstars appeared first on

Read More

Ten arrested in hunt to find killer who ‘dragged’ police officer to his death

A newlywed police officer was killed when he was “dragged along by a vehicle” after attending to a reported burglary in Berkshire.

PC Andrew Harper and a crew mate, of the Abingdon-based roads policing unit, were called to an incident near the village of Sulhamstead, between Reading and Newbury, at 11.30pm on Thursday. The 28-year-old, who got married just four weeks ago, died at the scene.

Thames Valley Police said 10 males aged between 13 and 30 were arrested on suspicion of murder and remain in custody.

PC Harper joined the force in 2010 as a special constable and became a police officer in 2011.

‘We are all shocked’

Flowers for the fallen officer (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Flowers for the fallen officer (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

He is the first officer to be killed on duty since March 2017, when unarmed PC Keith Palmer was stabbed by Khalid Masood during the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack.

John Campbell, the force’s Chief Constable, paid tribute to his “highly regarded and popular” colleague and revealed some details about PC Harper’s final moments.

He told a press conference: “We are all shocked by the death of our colleague, PC Andrew Harper.

“Our thoughts are with Andrew’s friends and family, who are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers.

“We know that at some point, Andrew has been dragged along by a vehicle but establishing a cause of death is something that will take place over the next few hours and days.”

PC Harper’s death highlights the increasing number of attacks on front-line officers. Figures show that police officers were victims of 10,399 alleged assaults that caused injuries last year – up 32 per cent from 7,903 recorded in 2015-16, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Growing violence

Chief Con John Campbell: 'I think there’s a challenge for society in terms of the easy recourse to violence but... we know there are certain associated risks' (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Chief Con John Campbell: ‘I think there’s a challenge for society in terms of the easy recourse to violence but… we know there are certain associated risks’ (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Chief Constable Campbell reflected on the rising tide of violence in Britain and acknowledged society’s challenge regarding the “easy recourse to violence”.

He said: “Policing has always been dangerous. For all of us who have been in the police for some time we’re regularly seeing an increase in violence presented to police officers.

“In these extreme circumstances it’s resulted in the loss of Andrew’s life so from that point of view, is policing getting more violent?

“I think there’s a challenge for society in terms of the easy recourse to violence but… we know there are certain associated risks.”

PC Harper’s death prompted a wave of tributes from police chiefs and politicians yesterday. Boris Johnson led them, saying he was “deeply shocked and appalled” by PC Harper’s death.

“It is the most powerful reminder that police officers up and down the country put themselves at risk every single day to keep us safe,” he said. “They have my absolute support.”

More crime

The post Ten arrested in hunt to find killer who ‘dragged’ police officer to his death appeared first on

Read More

Police officer killed in Berkshire praised for ‘incredible bravery’ as ten arrested on suspicion of murder

The Prime Minister has said he is “deeply shocked” and “appalled” by the news a police officer was killed after he was called to a reported burglary in Berkshire.

Ten men and boys have been arrested on suspicion of murder after Pc Andrew Harper was killed in a “serious incident” between Reading and Newbury, on Thursday night.

Boris Johnson described the officer as “brave” and Home Secretary Priti Patel said he had “died in the line of duty protecting the public” which “will not be forgotten”.

Pc Harper, who was from the Roads Policing Proactive Unit, based in Abingdon, had been called out to reports of a burglary at a property when he was “seriously injured” at a crossroads.

Serious injuries

Thames Valley Police said 10 have been arrested, aged between 13 and 30 have been arrested on suspicion of murder and remain in custody at various police stations in the force area.

The force has said Pc Harper was “killed while performing his duties” but did not confirmed any further details surrounding his death, saying they were still establishing the circumstances in which he was injured.

The incident occurred at the crossroads of Ufton Lane and Lambdens Hill, near to the village of Sulhamstead and pictures of the scene show a blood trail on the road leading across the junction.

According to the BBC, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it had been made aware of the death due to possible issues around a police pursuit.

On Thursday afternoon forensic investigators could be seen gathering items that lay on the road and taking photographs and police were also seen searching the inside of a grey BMW at the scene.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “totally shocked” by the death and that it highlighted the need for more police officers on the streets.

Home Secretary Ms Patel said: “I’m devastated and appalled by the tragic death of Pc Andrew Harper and my thoughts are with his loved ones, colleagues and the community he served with great pride at this immensely difficult time.

‘His bravery won’t be forgotten’

“Pc Harper died in the line of duty protecting the public and his incredible bravery and extraordinary sacrifice will not be forgotten. Our dedicated police officers go to work every day to serve their communities.

Home Secretary Priti Patel paid tribute to the officer

“They are courageous and professional people who confront danger on a daily basis. The risks they take to keep us all safe are enormous.

“As Home Secretary, I’ll do everything in my power to support them and crack down on the cowardly criminals who commit appalling acts of violence.”

The incident comes after a 42-year-old police constable was run over by a suspected car thief in Birmingham last week, leaving him with “potentially life-changing” injuries.

And this was just days after Metropolitan Police constable Stuart Outten, 28, was left with head and hand injuries after challenging a motor offences suspect allegedly armed with a machete in Leyton, east London.

Appeal for information

A police investigator places items in a bag at the scene of the incident (PA Wire)

Andy Fiddler, from Thames Valley Police Federation, said the death of Pc Harper was “totally devastating”, adding: “All our thoughts – and the thoughts of the entire police family across the UK – are with the family, friends and close colleagues of Pc Andrew Harper who died last night.”

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Blaik, of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, said: “This is a tragic incident, and I would like to reassure the public as well as our officers and staff that we have launched a full and thorough investigation to establish what has happened.

“We have made a total of 10 arrests in connection with this incident, and those arrested are currently in police custody. Those arrested are all male and aged between 13 and 30.

“I would appeal to anyone who witnessed this incident to get in touch. If you have any information which you think could be at all relevant to our investigation, no matter how insignificant it may seem, please leave details on our website or call 101.”

More UK news

The post Police officer killed in Berkshire praised for ‘incredible bravery’ as ten arrested on suspicion of murder appeared first on

Read More

Festus Akinbusoye: The Home Office’s latest anti-knife crime campaign is not racist

Festus Akinbusoye is Chairman of Milton Keynes Federation and was 2015 Parliamentary candidate for West Ham. He runs his own business.

The Home Office announcement of placing information on chicken-boxes at chicken shops across the country, aimed mainly at young people to deter them away from knife crime looked quite cutting-edge.

That is, until commentators started carving it to pieces, saying it is racist.  Their reasoning seemed to be that is somehow stereotyping black people as users of these shops.

Let me be clear. I am fully in support of us doing whatever needs to be done to help people drop the knives they feel a need to carry to keep them safe. I am all for consistent and practical measures aimed at engaging young people – where they are, to inspire them to better things as an alternative to being in gangs. So, as a public health infomercial, I support this Home Office initiative.

I know of families and friends who have been affected by gun and knife crime. Two have been fatal. One was just 16 years old, and the other in his early 20s. I too have witnessed, as a young man growing up in East London, a man covered in blood being chased by another carrying what looked like a machete. I couldn’t say what happened to this man, but the thought still haunts me some 20 years later.

There certainly isn’t a single solution to end violent crime on our streets. However, it is frankly just as ridiculous to turn violent crime into a race thing as it is to racialise solutions. Identifying a correlation between a specific crime and ethnicity will not cause any intelligent person to draw a causal link.

For example, and based on my experience of working with young offenders in and out of prisons, there is nothing yet that I have seen which causes me to believe that young black boys are any more violent or aggressive than their white or Asian counterparts. Nevertheless, data does show that a disproportionate number of young black boys are found with knives, and convicted of knife crimes, than their peers from other ethnic groups. The same couldn’t be said for other forms of crime.

I therefore do not buy the racism argument being levelled at the Home Office on this occasion, because the chicken shops being targeted are not just in predominantly black areas, but all parts of the country. If we are to treat gun and knife crime as a public health issue, engaging young people at the place where they are most likely to be found should be welcome. The use of iInstagram, for example, as a way of engaging young people on the subject of knife crime is a really good idea.

This is where I think the Home Office might wish to revisit this otherwise positive ‘chicken box’ strategy. Here is just one reason why. I live in rural Bedfordshire, where we do not have the typical chicken shops like the ones in our urban centres. Nonetheless, we do have growing concerns about ‘county line’ drug gangs moving their nefarious trade into rural areas. In fact, there is some evidence to show that knife crime is increasing at a faster rate in rural areas than in larger urban parts of the UK.

As alluded to earlier, this initiative may run the risk of assuming that knife crime and the gang culture that surround it are city centred – so resources are focused on those areas only. This will be mistake.

Additionally, while it is essential that this form of passive engagement continues – in chicken shops, social media, online and placed adverts, and so on – it is equally crucial that we invest more in support services within communities and for parents who might be struggling to keep their children out of gangs.

Far from taking away a parent’s rightful responsibility for caring for their child, it is about letting that parent know there is help available once it has been put in place. A quick search online will tell you there is not much support out there at all for parents who are worried about their child falling victim to grooming by gang leaders.

There are multiple reasons why people carry knives or join gangs, and there will have to be a multi-pronged approach to tackling these, including tougher prison sentences aimed at rehabilitation and reform. It is however perfectly sensible to also include in this deal useful information on chicken boxes, billboards and posters, alongside investment in community and home based support.

This is not about race, it is about keeping our communities safe.

Read More

‘It’s an insult’: What people in chicken shops actually think about anti-knife crime boxes

In the Morley’s takeaway in Brixton on Thursday afternoon, there’s a queue for fried chicken. Customer Diane Dugdale has already got hers, and we’re sat on the table next to the counter to talk about the Government’s latest attempt to engage with the disenfranchised youth of today: the “Knife Free” campaign printed on takeaway boxes. There’s a pile of them on a shelf above the hot light. 

The Home Office campaign is aimed at young people at risk of so-called “chicken shop grooming”, and 321,000 branded boxes are being distributed at branches of Morley’s, Chicken Cottage, and Dixy Chicken across England and Wales. 

According to the department, reports show gangs target youths at urban chicken shops and seek out vulnerable teenagers to use them in notorious county lines drug operations. The containers will include warnings and real life stories about people who have managed to get away from gang violence. 

Ms Dugdale, from Brixton, used to be a youth worker, and now works in housing. She says the boxes are “an insult – utter bullshit”, and thinks that rather than spending money on a “publicity stunt”, the government should invest in communities.

Lack of opportunities

Knife crime chicken boxes
She said more needs to be done to support communities (Photo: inews)

“Here in Brixton, they’ve closed community centres,” she tells i. “There’s nowhere for kids to go. We’ve heard all this before, but it’s still an issue. It’s idleness and it’s a lack of opportunities. 

“Young people need support, we need money put into schools, we need outreach programmes. We’ve got stories on chicken boxes and more stop and search? 

“I think this is just papering over the cracks. It’s putting a plaster over a complex problem in society. It’s an insult, utter bullshit, actually.”

Bridget Boeteng, a bus driver from Catford, works in Brixton and is in Morley’s with her two young sons, one of whom goes to school nearby. She admits she’s worried about the future and shares Ms Dugdale’s sentiments: where there are deterrents, there should be the promise of security. Ms Boeteng also thinks there’s an obvious disconnect between the country’s politicians and its youth. 

“Boxes alone aren’t going to solve this,” she says.

“Cigarette boxes have warnings on them… people still smoke. Young people need encouragement. They need prospects. Chicken boxes aren’t going to make a real difference and spark positive change. 

“There are fewer opportunities now. All the paths that used to be open have been closed.” 

Hope for ‘positive impact’ on communities

Knife crime chicken boxes
One of the stories is about a boxer called Sean (Photo: inews)

The Home Office said the boxes aren’t the only aspect of the project. Street teams of specially trained youth workers will also visit convenience stores, hair salons, barber shops, places of worship, and community centres in London, Manchester, and Birmingham to talk to young people about the dangers of carrying a knife.

But the government, under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, clearly feels stories on takeaway packaging are vital in preventing violence. 

Read more:

Fried chicken boxes to carry knife crime warnings under government scheme

Government’s anti-knife chicken boxes criticised for being a ‘crude, offensive and harmful gimmick’

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.”

Shan Selvendran, managing director of Morley’s, has backed the idea, and said: “We want to promote being knife free by using custom chicken boxes to deliver the message and start conversations amongst all of our customers.”

Separately, a Morley’s spokesperson told i that a trial of the campaign was well received: “Our involvement with the ‘Knife Free’ campaign started after a stabbing outside one of our stores which resulted in a tragic death, in November 2018.

“We agreed to run 20,000 chicken and burger boxes in 15 stores, in a distinctive black and white colour scheme, displaying the #knifefree hashtag, with more detailed messaging inside the box, to be read as our customers enjoy their meal.

“We had significant positive feedback and people coming into stores enquiring about the boxes. We hope this will have some positive impact in the communities we are a part of. Just one person being influenced not to carry a knife is invaluable and we want to contribute to that.” 

If there are good intentions, many feel they have been misplaced. The department has been accused of pedalling racial stereotypes, with some calling the idea “crude” and “offensive”. 

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and fellow Labour MP David Lammy dismissed the strategy as a harmful gimmick, and called on the Government to properly invest in communities to tackle violent crime. But Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would “not apologise” for “communicating tragic consequences of carrying a knife”. 

‘More needs to be done’

Knife crime chicken boxes
Not all shops will feature the packaging (Photo: inews)

In Brixton, it is getting busier. A group of teenagers arrive and i asks a couple of them what they think of the boxes. Few, if any, have heard of the campaign, but after they understand the concept, one declares that “it sounds interesting”. “Yeah, interesting,” says another. Others seem less enthused, though that might be because they’re on a summer camp of some sort and don’t want to talk to some random bloke about knife crime. 

i passes three franchised branches of Morley’s on the route from Brixton to Peckham, but only select shops will be stocking the #knifefree literature. Still, outside one of them is Hakeem Williams, who lives in Romford but is working in south east London. He’s heard about the initiative. 

He says he doesn’t think the boxes won’t do any harm, and if they “save one life”, then it’s a good thing. But he isn’t sure they’ll have the desired effect in the long-term. 

Mr Williams says: “It’s important to talk about society’s problems. But if we want to enact real change, more needs to be done. The chicken boxes won’t do any harm. Fine. But they’re not going to provide anyone with any jobs are they? Or nurture young people who need nurturing.”

More politics

The post ‘It’s an insult’: What people in chicken shops actually think about anti-knife crime boxes appeared first on

Read More

Matthew Barber: The police need proper powers to deal with illegal encampments

Matthew Barber is the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley. He is currently the Deputy PCC for that area.

Dealing with illegal (or unauthorised) encampments is not about stigmatising a nomadic way of life or criminalising a section of the population. It is about dealing with a serious problem of anti-social behaviour and criminality that in some quarters is overlooked or downplayed for fear of being accused of discrimination.

Nevertheless, if you are a teacher organising a sports day on the school field, or the volunteer helping with the village fete, the arrival (illegally) of several vehicles in the area allocated for the coconut shy is a real problem that people expect the police to deal with.

The law, as it stands, is not on the side of the police in meeting the public’s expectations. The powers that police officers have to move unauthorised encampments are limited and responsibility often falls to the landowner. If that is the local authority, they may have the resources to deal with the problem, but often it is a private landowner who cannot afford or is intimidated to go to court. It’s perfectly likely that criminal damage may have occurred, perhaps cutting a lock to enter the site, but there is often no evidence about which individual is responsible to justify an arrest. There may be numerous other reports of crimes or anti-social behaviour in the area. Undoubtedly some will be exaggerated or repeated rumour, but genuine victims will also be scared to give evidence to the police to progress action. After a few days of apparent inactivity by the authorities, the current residents of the village green will move on, leaving behind a costly clean up and a bitter memory within the settled community.

All of this may sound like a reiteration of the excuses used time and again, but it is really the diagnosis of the problem for which we must find a solution.

Like our new Prime Minister, I am an optimist, and once the more immediate challenges facing the Government are dealt with, I hope that he will enthusiastically throw his full and energetic weight behind changes to the law in this area. Following a consultation the Government had earlier this year, they promised to amend the legislation relating to illegal encampments. This is a real opportunity to get the balance right and to deliver the powers that are needed. I have been talking to local authorities across the country who have been taking different approaches to the problem. I have also been in contact with the Garda in the Republic of Ireland who work under a very different legal framework to see what lessons can be learned.

Some of the changes outlined by the Government should be welcomed, but I believe the changes can go further. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle an issue which is a persistent complaint from residents across the Thames Valley and I am sure across the country. Currently, the police have to rely on loosely framed powers (Sections 61 and 62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) or hope that there are other criminal offences that can be used. This is inadequate – and stronger powers are needed both for land-owners and the police. I have no desire to prevent people from having a perfectly legal nomadic lifestyle, but the law must apply to all, equally and fairly.

As with all sections of the community, there are criminal elements within groups of travellers but the police cannot and should not tar everyone with the same brush. In the same way that if there is some criminal damage in my road, I would not expect a whole family to be arrested if one member of that family is suspected, the travelling community should expect fair and equal treatment.

Until the law is changed the police will continue to fail in meeting the public’s expectations, not through lack of endeavour but through inadequate powers. The solution isn’t limited to the criminal law; housing authorities have a role to play as well, as is apparent in Ireland.

I am a pragmatist, rather than an ideological politician, but if the Conservative Party believes in anything it should be private property and the liberty of the individual. It is perfectly possible to frame the law so that it respects the freedom of individuals to move around the country freely, whilst respecting the rights of landowners. The right to roam is not the right to occupy any piece of land you choose.

This is a problem for police forces up and down the country and Police and Crime Commissioners will be at the forefront of ensuring the law is changed where needed. There is a solution to balance the needs of all communities and it is a solution that a Conservative Government can deliver.

Read More

Tim Passmore: Joint working is the way to fight crime in Suffolk

Tim Passmore is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk.

This November I will have had the privilege of being Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for seven years. As you probably know, this important public service role replaced the former Police Authority, with a single person democratically elected to act in the public interest, and to try and ensure the delivery of an effective and efficient police force in their area. The Chief Constable has operational independence, whilst at the same time the PCC sets and agrees the budget. With that comes the responsibility of setting the level of Council Tax in the force area.

Personally, I find one of the biggest challenges in this role is drawing the line between operational independence and upholding the public interest and accountability, bearing in mind the PCC is overall responsible for the budget– I’m still trying to optimise the balance but I am getting there…

The 43 PCCs in England and Wales are also responsible for commissioning victim services, which is largely funded with a grant direct from the Ministry of Justice. This is a credit to the coalition government who recognised the need to place the victims of crime at the focal point of the whole criminal justice system. An excellent start has been made, but there is still some way to go.

To make your tenure a success, it is crucial to have meaningful and regular engagement with the public and with all sectors of the economy. In Suffolk I am particularly fortunate to have an excellent team that works with me (as opposed to for me) including our head of public affairs and engagement. Her commitment to the role has made an enormous contribution to raising the profile of what policing and victims work we undertake and its relevance to the local taxpayer. The cornerstone of this success is a detailed series of public engagement events and discussions blended with a mix of media columns and interviews, websites, social media, and online surveys. The essential nature of sound internal communication programmes must not be overlooked either.

In my view, any aspiring PCC must have the best public engagement colleague possible and one you can trust completely and rely on for their advice – even if it seems at times to be difficult to accept.

Amongst other notable achievements I was particularly proud to veto a proposal to close our control room and hive the service off to Norfolk. I could not see how this would have improved policing in Suffolk and there was little evidence to support this proposition. That said, you can sometimes be placed in an uncomfortable position when you are in a minority of one.

By supporting the collaborative moves with policing colleagues in Norfolk the two forces have yielded annual savings on a recurring basis of over £37 million, sufficient to employ around 750 police officers. This has enabled us to meet the huge reductions in funding from the Home Office with some confidence and has enabled further investment in better response: a state of the art cyber-crime unit and increased capacity in crucial areas such as roads policing and detective work.

Significant improvements has been made to help victims of domestic abuse (mostly women), sexual abuse (predominantly children), and coercive control. In Suffolk, there is now a properly funded IDVA service (Independent Domestic Violence Adviser) which did not exist when I was first elected. Our commissioning work with crime disorder reduction grants has assisted many disadvantaged people in the county – this included a large fund (£100k) to support the voluntary sector in keeping young children safe online. Over 10,000 school children benefited from this work. I was delighted to announce that a £50,000 fund of public money I had made available to help young people specifically has been very generously matched with a further one hundred thousand pounds from philanthropic donations.

For the future, there is still a great deal to achieve. We must continue to develop the Suffolk “One Public Sector Estate” programme as this provides far better value for money for the taxpayer. In many cases the co-location of the workforce has significant operational benefits for all organisations. This includes local government, fire and rescue, local authorities, and the health sectors – what I have termed a “Suffolk plc” process.

The upholding of the law and support for good policing should be in our Conservative DNA and there have been times when this has been questionable during the last few years. I do not agree with ring-fencing foreign aid when policing has been under enormous pressure due to increased demand and a rapidly changing pattern of crime. Who would have thought that slavery still exists and the appalling rise in violence, much of which is driven by the gang culture and drugs would now be of concern to us all?

We need to remind the government that policing is an important indirect economic driver since there is a very clear link between low levels of inward investment and poor economic growth with high levels of crime, anti-social behaviour, and corruption. Therefore policing must be properly resourced and managed – and this includes having the political will to reform the current police funding formula, which discriminates against the largely rural areas in favour of the urban forces.

More work is urgently required to reduce re-offending rates. This is not about adopting some wet liberal set of proposals but making sure there is a sensible approach to prison reform to provide homes and employment coupled with proper training before prisoners are released back into civilian life. I visited the military correction centre in Colchester last year and was particularly impressed with their successful reform for individuals. We need more of this ‘Carrot and Stick’ approach – Churchill once famously stated there is a jewel in the heart of every man if only you can find it. That’s what the criminal justice system must focus on.

Public sector procurement should do a great deal more to support local business by assessing more clearly the social and economic impact of what is purchased with taxpayers’ money. I for one will be delighted when the EU shackles on procurement are completely ditched – in Suffolk we spend £1.8 billion of yours and my money on goods and services across the public sector and barely 50 per cent is spent with local businesses. An eleven per cent increase could boost the local economy by 200 million – so let us get on with it.

Overall, after a troubled gestation period, PCCs are making a positive contribution to society but there is some way to go. I hope I will be fortunate enough to be re-elected next May to help carry our Conservative values forward.

Read More

A UK-US trade deal. Never mind the economics (at least for a moment). Feel the politics.

“While trade deals have taken on an important political and symbolic value in the context of Brexit,” Dominic Walsh of Open Europe wrote recently on this site, “their economic benefits are typically smaller and slower to materialise than many realise.” This is the place to start when considering a possible UK-US agreement on trade.  Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for one is as much political as economic: a successful deal would show Britain, as it moves a bit further from the EU, also moving a bit closer to America.

Such a rebalancing is a strategic consequence of Brexit, at least in the eyes of many backers of leaving the EU.  Future trade deals were a Vote Leave EU referendum priority – though it may be significant that the United States was not one of the headline countries named.  Perhaps the reason was a wariness of anti-American sentiment among a section of the voting public.  None the less, the prospect of a trade agreement with the United States was mooted during the 2016 campaign: hence Barack Obama’s line, written for him by Team Cameron, of Britain being “at the back of the queue” for such a deal.

The obstacles to one are formidable.  For while the Prime Minister is bound to view it through the lens of politics, Donald Trump is more likely to do through that of economics – though the one admittedly tends to blur into the other.  America’s approach to such matters as food safety and animal welfare, environmental protection and intellectual property rights is different from ours in any event.  Never mind the red herring of chlorinated chickens – so to speak – or autopilot claims from Corbynistas about NHS selloffs. The real action is elsewhere.  The United States has long had a protectionist streak, and is resistant to opening up its financial services markets, for example.

The conventional view is that Trump is the biggest America Firster of all; that he would drive a hard bargain, that he has the muscle to do so – and that he wouldn’t be in control of an agreement anyway.  Congress could block one if it wished, and might well do so in the event of No Deal, since the Irish-American lobby is as well-entrenched as ever.  It has been a headache for British governments over Ireland-linked matters before: remember the McBride principles.  A different take is that politics may win out in the end, because both Trump and Congress will want a UK trade deal in order to put economic and political pressure on the EU: we will publish more about that later this week.

John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser, is visiting Britain.  He said yesterday that the UK will be “first in line” for a trade agreement post-Brexit – a deliberate counter to Obama’s line.  Bolton will be dangling the prospect as an inducement.  He will want Johnson to take a more resistant line to Huawei than Theresa May did, and for the UK to move closer to America’s position on Iran.  But the possibility of early sector deals – or at least the exclusion of Britain from new pro-protection moves – seems to be real enough.  As with the NHS, policing, immigration and stop and search, so with trade.  Johnson wants progress towards a quick win as a possible election looms.

Read More

So we’ve had NHS, policing and immigration plans from Johnson. Stand ready for a schools spending pledge.

So Boris Johnson has pledged 10,000 new police officers, as well as a raft of tougher-sounding anti-crime policies, an Australian-style points-based immigration system (not to mention the relaxion of migration rules for scientists), and £1.8 billion for the NHS.  It isn’t hard to see where he will go next, and soon.

The remaining element of Dominic Cummings’s favourite set of policies – tax cuts for lower-paid workers – may have to wait for a publicity push, because these would need legislation, and the Government has no working majority.  Though the Prime Minister could try them on the Commons anyway, daring Labour to vote them down, as part of an Emergency Budget in October (if there is one).

What is likely to come sooner is a Government commitment to spend at least £5,000 on every secondary school pupil.  ConservativeHome understands that this announcement is written into this summer’s campaigning grid.  But we need no special briefing to work this out for ourselves in any event – and nor does anyone else.  For why peer into the crystal of Downing Street announcements when one can read the book: i.e: Johnson’s Daily Telegraph columns?

For it was in one of these, back during the Conservative leadership election, that he pledged “significantly to improve the level of per pupil funding so that thousands of schools get much more per pupil – and to protect that funding in real terms”.  The £5000 figure was briefed out separarely.  This promise was one of the two main big ticket spending items of his campaign, the other being that undertaking to raise police spending.

“It is simply not sustainable that funding per pupil should be £6800 in parts of London and £4200 in some other parts of the country,” the former Mayor of the capital wrote.  Just as the NHS spending announcement was framed by a visit to hospitals in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, expect any school spending news to be projected by a trip to schools in Leave-voting provincial England: all part of the push to squeeze the Brexit Party.

If that column is any guide, don’t be surprised to see a maths, science and IT element too – which would also be very Cummings – as well as a stress on “giving real parity of esteem to vocational training and apprenticeships”.  There is evidence that these are popular all-round, but especially among older voters.  Gavin Williamson is bound to have a supporting role, just as Priti Patel has had with the weekend’s law and order initiatives, but Johnson will lead.

Like his other spending promises, Johnson’s school pledge may not be deliverable in the event of a No Deal Brexit, and there are inevitably questions anyway about timescale anyway.  But if you want to know what more will be in his campaigning package, look no further.

Read More

“To literally feel terror”

Boris Johnson wants, specifically, to frighten Labour off a no confidence vote and, more broadly, to intimidate the anti-No Deal Brexit Commons coalition MPs return in September.  That means demonstrating that voters are backing him.  That requires improving opinion poll ratings.  And that, in turn, means an August blizzard – yes, such a thing is possible – of policy announcements to prove that his new government “is on your side”.

So to Dominic Cummings’s trinity of an Australian-style points-based immigration system, more NHS spending and tax cuts for lower paid workers we must now add action on law and order.  The new Prime Minister promised 20,000 more police during his Conservative leadership election campaign.  To that we must now add 10,000 new prison places and greater use of stop and search powers, both of which are announced today.

Or rather we would do, if Johnson had a durable majority, and were the future more clear.  The money to fund those new prison places may not be available in the event of No Deal: it could be needed for other measures.  And sweeping changes to sentencing would require legislation, which the Government is in no position to present to Parliament.

None the less, the Downing Street bully pulpit has its uses, and if the Prime Minister wants wider stop and search powers to be available, he is in a position to get his way – for as long as he’s in place, anyway.  Today’s push should help.  As Matt Singh writes, there has already been “a substantial Boris bounce”.  It has largely come off the back of Brexit Party supporters, and this latest initiative is aimed at them (as well as Labour working class voters).

So too was the appointment of Priti Patel as Home Secretary.  ConservativeHome is told that there was a collective intake of breath in Downing Street when she said recently that she wants criminals “to literally feel terror”.  Number Ten need not have worried about how that view would go down.  There is “overwhelming support” for it among the public, according to YouGov.

If Johnson somehow survives the autumn without a general election, or wins one with a majority, a further question will arises about all these spending plans – namely, whether or not they’re consistent with the traditional centre-right commitment to fiscal stability.  The Prime Minister could be forgiven for thinking, given the probability of an autumn poll and the uncertainty of any result, that this would be a nice problem to have.

Read More

David Sidwick: The facts show you are safer with a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner

David Sidwick is the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset.

I am honoured to be the Conservative PCC candidate to represent the people of Dorset – both the Country and the Coast. When you start on this road you realise something quite alarming right from the start: there is no training course to equip you for the role and you need to acquire knowledge on the hoof. So, after 18 months of research and “seeing practice” with other PCCs, it is clear that knowledge and visibility will be key to getting this done.

There are three questions the electorate wants answers to:

  1. Why have a PCC?
  2. Why a Conservative PCC?
  3. Why David Sidwick?

This first question feeds into voter turnout where the PCC role is poorly misunderstood and its value misrepresented. The PCC in ITV’s Wild Bill is not representative of the Lincolnshire PCC nor is the shady individual in Line of Duty. The answer is to keep repeating what the PCC can do to underpin law and order. The two recent Conservative Home articles by Katy Bourne and Matthew Barber show the value of PCCs as agents of change, as well as their contribution to community representation and accountability.

The third question is for me to address locally in Dorset where the incumbent is an independent.

So I’m going to focus here on the second question. Why have a Conservative PCC? This is the most important question to answer and is particularly relevant in today’s political climate where traditional party loyalties are in a state of some flux. There are four reasons why a Conservative PCC makes sense and we need to keep repeating why these matter:

Conservative Values. The key to a PCC being Conservative lies in our long-term commitment to law and order. We understand how crime impacts people from low level “nuisance” to the more serious offences. We have always stood for aspiration and meritocracy, with individuals having the freedom to live their lives within the law so long as they do not infringe the freedoms of others. This means we Conservative PCCs and candidates take a robust approach – understanding explanations and vulnerability, yet ensuring that these are not excuses and the law is upheld. You may be vulnerable and had a tough upbringing, but that does not give you the right to terrorise your community.

Peelian Principles. It is too often forgotten that the Conservative Party in Sir Robert Peel invented the police force and initiated the nine Peelian Principles. As a Conservative, it’s in our nature to hold these sacrosanct. These have been uniquely constant in defining what a Police Force should do – and inspirational in ensuring success. Bill Bratton – the Commissioner of Police in New York carried them in his pocketbook whilst the NYPD went about fighting crime so successfully. They are all important – but two, I believe, are critical to a modern Conservative view.

Firstly, to reduce Crime and Disorder. This is self-evidently the first clear priority. Secondly, police seek and preserve public approval not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law. Having instigated the principles, the Conservative Party holds them most dear and is most likely to ensure complete independence for the Police from individuals, companies, political parties, and critically, the government.

The Alternatives. Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour believe in removing local need and accountability from the police equation. They prefer moving towards a National Force designed to act on national policing issues directed from the centre. A vote for either means a PCC actively working to make themselves redundant. Whilst there may be a case for reform in some areas to increase efficiency – the removal of a democratic mandate from people is a high price to pay.

Certainly, Labour has a much more insidious agenda – The Shadow Home Secretary is quoted in 2005 as saying: “We are not interested in reforming … the police, armed services, judiciary and monarchy. We are about dismantling them and replacing them with our own machinery of class rule.” This outlook is scary in the extreme. But equally concerning are the libertarian views of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats on drugs policy and the balance between the needs of the victim and community versus those of the perpetrator.

Finally, what of an “independent” – this may be the worst option as they have not faced a rigorous selection process relying instead on a misleading apolitical stance. This means they could display an all things to all men approach whilst following their own or others’ significant agendas. This is not transparent and means they are like a packet of Revels – you think you are getting the yummy orange one but instead you may get the wrinkled raisin at the bottom.

Conservative PCCs – More Effective.

Real data shows that Conservative PCCs are more effective than their counterparts. Having reviewed all 43 forces with both HMICFRS data and Home Office statistics we find the following:

  • Of the 10 best performing forces – nine have a Conservative PCC
  • Of the 10 worst performing forces – only four have a Conservative PCC
  • For total crime rate – seven of the lowest ten are Conservative
  • For Violence Against a Person Rate – seven of the lowest ten are Conservative
  • For Anti-Social Behaviour – six out of the lowest 10 are Conservative
  • In nine out of 11 similar parameters, Conservative PCCs are equal to or better than the opposition.

A Conservative PCC makes sense both philosophically and empirically.

Of course, there are many challenges for all PCC candidates going forward, but we now have a strong case for Conservatism which is far more persuasive than when PCCs first took up office. We need to make the case for why Conservatism should remain at the heart of policing via the PCCs.

Read More