Maria Miller: Domestic abuse can stretch on for a lifetime. So why do we stop recording it after the age of 74?

6 Jul

Maria Miller is a former Culture Secretary, and is MP for Basingstoke.

We know that domestic abuse can affect anyone, of any gender, any ethnicity, whether you are disabled or non-disabled, and whatever your socio-economic background. Though we know it impacts some more than others – women, disabled people, or the LGBTQ community – age, especially older age, is rarely a consideration for decision makers working to protect and support victims and survivors.

We can see this in the fact that data collection on domestic abuse in the Crime Survey for England and Wales stops at the age of 74. Domestic abuse doesn’t go away with age, and older people can be especially vulnerable to different kinds of abuse, including abuse by a carer or financial abuse. But without any statistics for domestic abuse later life, there is a real possibility that older victims and survivors are missing out on vital help, support and protection.

Age UK tells us that, in 2019, 280,000 people aged between 60 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales. Even more shockingly, this number has risen by 40 per cent in the last two years alone. Without the numbers on those over the age of 74, many more older people will be suffering in silence without the specialist support they need.

I am immensely proud of my Party for championing the Domestic Abuse Bill, a landmark piece of legislation which will benefit so many. But I do urge Ministers to make one simple change – to start recording data of victims and survivors over the age of 74. This will give us a clearer picture of domestic abuse in England and Wales. It will mean resources and support will be properly allocated, and no victim or survivor of domestic abuse will be disadvantaged purely because they are in later life.

This small change would mean that people like Hilda are able to access specialist services to help them out of the desperate situation they find themselves in. Hilda is in her 80s and has complex care needs due to Parkinson’s and diabetes. One of her daughters has recently moved in to care for her. This is admirable and something many of us wouldn’t think twice about.

However, Hilda’s family are wary of her daughter’s history of controlling behaviour, and have become concerned about her wellbeing in recent months: they fear she is being neglected and don’t know what to do. Hilda seems upset, but is unable to communicate this, since the daughter she lives with is restricting her contact with the rest of the family and insist that they are interfering when they try to help.

Hilda’s story highlights how complex domestic abuse can be, especially when there are issues around caring in later life. Her story also shows the significant barriers in the way of older people leaving abusive situations: the years of abuse they may have suffered; the long-term health conditions or disabilities they have; or their reliance on their abuser for their care or money.

Hilda’s family were able to contact the local safeguarding adults’ team at her local council, who were able to give advice. But there will be many more people out there, many more Hildas, older victims who don’t feel protected by the law and don’t have family to help. They are unrecorded and unable to access the right care and support to help them leave abusive situations.

It is a positive step for the country to be tackling domestic abuse head-on, and right for the Government to be providing more resources for victims and survivors. As the Domestic Abuse Bill passes through Parliament, I urge Ministers to make this one simple change: record victims and survivors over the age of 74. Domestic Abuse has no age limit, and neither should our understanding of it.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 999. National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Age UK Advice Line: 0800 678 1602

Tony Smith: Turning the tide on migrant boats

3 Jul

Tony Smith is a former Head of the UK Border Force and Director of Ports and Borders in both the UK and Canada. He is now Managing Director of Fortinus Global Ltd, and Chairman of the International Border Management and Technologies Association.

Rarely a day goes by without news of more migrants crossing the English Channel from France to claim asylum. What began as a trickle two years ago has now become a stream. Over 1800 came across in 2019. Over 160 arrived in a single day on 3rd June. At current rates, the 2020 figure will double last year’s total; it could even go higher still. Yet only around six per cent are returned to France.

Those who said that these waters were too difficult to navigate in unseaworthy vessels have been proved wrong. We have seen arrivals in all forms of makeshift craft, even inflatables and canoes. So how do we turn the tide, and stem these illegal flows?

This is a complex problem. There are significant challenges raised by international law including 1951 Refugee Convention, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (COLAS), and the Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR).

Following media reports that French vessels were “escorting” migrant boats into British waters in May, Priti Patel announced that she would change international law to close the Channel loophole; but any change in international law needs international agreement.

Article 98 of UNCLOS encourages neighbouring states to establish regional arrangements for search and rescue at sea. Examples include joint patrol vessels, or the placement of officials from one jurisdiction on board the vessel of another.

So there is no reason in international law why the British and French governments could not introduce joint SAR patrols. They would have to meet the requirements on international law; but – crucially – refugees and asylum seekers can be taken to any place where there is no risk of their life or freedom being threatened in accordance with Article 33(1) of the Refugee Convention, on the principle of “non refoulement”.

So subject to mutual agreement, we could establish an integrated UK/French border patrol to rescue migrants at sea and bring them to a place of safety; and as both countries are signatories to the 1951 Convention, that could be to a port on either side, and not necessarily to the country whose vessel happens to rescue them.

Of course, this needs a political agreement with France. Some may say this is not achievable. Maybe not. But in 2002, the total UK asylum intake figure rose to over 100,000, with the vast majority arriving from France. To stem the flows, the UK and France agreed a bilateral Treaty (Le Touquet) in to establish “juxtaposed controls” whereby officers would conduct passport inspections prior to boarding ferries.

As these inspections were “extra territorial”, asylum claims were excluded. This led to a far harsher reduction of asylum claims from France than the numbers we see on the migrant boats today. In my experience, successive French governments have been prepared to work with UK border enforcement agencies to disrupt and deter irregular migration on the cross-channel routes. They don’t like human smugglers any more than we do. This suggests that there is scope for further bilateral agreement to counteract the maritime threat.

Although France is a “safe third country”, the current Dublin Convention trumps safe third country rules. To return as asylum seeker to another member state, the receiving state has to prove that an asylum claim had already been made in the other state.

Given that nearly all migrants are undocumented on arrival, this evidence is rarely available – and accounts to a great extent for the very low returns rate. As the UK departs the EU, it will no longer be party to the Dublin Convention. A new “safe third” agreement is needed.

There will always be migrants in France who want to come to the UK. Some may have legitimate reasons for doing so – for example, those with family connections here. To meet this demand, the UK could offer a legitimate migratory route to the UK for specific categories of persons via our offices in France; thereby reducing the incentive for illegitimate routes and simultaneously disrupting the smuggling supply chains.

I hope that the Government’s current strategy to encourage better enforcement in France pays off. It is certainly having an impact. But if we believe that this could escalate into a crisis like the one we saw back in 2002, we will need a more fundamental and radical approach to tackling the problem.

That means reaching a new international agreement France on joint patrols, search and rescue, and safe returns whilst simultaneously exploring alternative legitimate offshore processing routes for those with a genuine case to enter. Then – and only then – will we finally be able to turn the tide on migrant boats and defeat the maritime threat to our borders.

The ‘Peelian Principles’ do not prohibit much tougher public order policing. They mandate it.

27 Jun

Earlier this month, I wrote about how the Government needed to get a grip on public order policing, and Mark Wallace argued that the police’s limp-wristed tactics in Bristol and elsewhere were emboldening the mob.

The past two weeks have done nothing to diminish that assessment. We have seen the inevitable ‘counter-protests’, and now an establishment which bent over backwards to facilitate one form of allegedly unsafe mass public gathering is spitting feathers at Britons flocking to be beach.

We have reached the point where at least one force is now operating an explicit double standard, ‘facilitating’ a Black Lives Matter vigil whilst reminding the public that all other mass gatherings, “including counter-protests”, remain illegal.

As with universities and so much else, there is no excuse for the Conservatives to simply lament such conduct when they’re in government with an eighty-seat majority. It’s time for action.

What shape such action takes is an open question. In my last piece, I floated the idea of hiving off public order policing from the regular forces and assigning responsibility to a new, UK-wide specialist constabulary, in a similar – but not identical – fashion to the way many European nations employ a gendarmerie.

In response, Will Tanner of Onward suggested on Twitter that such an ‘oppressive’ policing model was contrary to the British policing tradition, and the ‘Peelian Principles’ upon which this is founded. Fleshing out his thoughts in Prospect, he described the proposal as ‘militaristic’.

This is misleading. For starters, the model outlined above employs no structures or strategies not already employed in British policing. The Ministry of Defence Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary are two already-extant specialist forces, and the Territorial Support Group the existing specialist public-order unit. I’m simply applying one existing organisational model to another existing operational model.

(It’s also worth remembering that Theresa May, Tanner’s former boss, employed double standards on such issues, waxing pious about how water cannon had no place on British streets whilst they were deployed on British streets in Northern Ireland.)

On the subject of actual gendarmeries, France is by no means the only European country to operate one: they are also employed by such authoritarian regimes as Portugal and the Netherlands. As for concerns that the UK might follow America down the path of hyper-militarised policing, this has arisen there in large part via the US Armed Forces selling off vast quantities of military surplus. Britain, which has a patchy record of equipping even its on-duty soldiers, is unlikely to face this particular problem.

But Tanner’s interpretation also misrepresents the Peelian Principles themselves. If one actually reads the ‘Nine Principles of Policing‘ set out by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, one finds little support for the indulgent, conflict-averse tactics favoured by many senior officers today.

For example, the very first duty laid on the police is “to prevent crime and disorder”. ‘Prevent’. Not peacefully facilitate in the hope of picking up the perpetrators afterwards from video footage.

The next one reminds them that their ability to operate effectively is “dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.” This is where ‘policing by consent’ comes from.

But note that it is the consent of the broad public, not the rioters, and in 2011 polls clearly showed that voters strongly disapproved of the feeble initial response of the police to the riots in London and elsewhere.

In fact, not only did the public ‘consent’ very strongly to a broad range of ‘militaristic’ tactics – the only one which polled under 50 per cent support was live ammunition, which still got 33 per cent – but fully 77 per cent of those polled backed deploying the Army. This put the police in violation of the First Principle, which mandates them to maintain order “as an alternative to their repression by military force”.

What about the Fifth Principle: “To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws…” How does that square with the current, pronounced tendency towards what Sam Ashworth-Hayes has dubbed ‘morality policing?

There are sections of the Principles which advise restraint in physical force policing. But take a closer look. Here’s the Sixth Principle, my emphases:

“To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”

So that’s simply counselling the police against using force where the law can be upheld and order maintained by other means. It very much does not say that it is better for the law to be peaceably broken than forcefully maintained.

The Peelian Principles remain a sound basis for British policing. But too often they are trotted out only in defence of ‘weak policing. In point of fact, a robust and pro-active approach to maintaining order and protecting public and private property is entirely consistent with Sir Robert’s vision.

It’s the alternative that isn’t. To defer to the judgement of rioters and vandals is to turn the idea of ‘policing by consent’ into a bad joke. Theirs is not the consent required.

Daniel Hannan: The police. Not institutionally racist, but institutionally woke.

24 Jun

Daniel Hannan is a writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

The police have had an unusually bad lockdown. They began by being bossy and officious, ticking people off for buying luxury items or walking too slowly in parks or even (in one incident in Rotherham that was caught on camera) for being in their own garden. But when Black Lives Matter took to the streets, they promptly forgot all about the restrictions. Far from ordering protesters to disperse, they looked on as mobs carried out flagrant acts of vandalism.

In Bristol, a superintendent refused to prevent criminal damage to the Colston statue because “we know that it has been an historical figure that has caused the black community quite a lot of angst over the last couple of years.” (Perhaps so – but it was hardly his call to make, was it?)

In London, officers were pulled out of Parliament Square, allowing vandals to fall on the statues there – including that of Abraham Lincoln, commemorated for having freed America’s slaves. Last weekend, we reached a new low, as a Met officer, in effect, pleaded with people to break the law in a considerate manner.

“First and foremost we want people to be safe, and would encourage you to stay at home,” said Commander Alex Murray. “However, if you feel compelled to come and have your voice heard, we would say please remain socially distant, we don’t want people to get ill; and, more than that, please do not engage in any violence.”

Demonstrations, of course, were banned – a fact the Met clung to obsessively when protesters were complaining about the lockdown. But, when a different set of protesters started to demonstrate about the atrocity in Minneapolis, police chiefs were reduced to asking people who felt “compelled” to break the law to do so non-violently. It was hard not to think of Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons: “Can’t you people take the law into your own hands?”

The problem of the PC PC – the politically correct police constable – goes back to the Blair years, and there can be something quite funny about heavy-handed attempts by rozzers to be woke. But there is nothing funny about the consequences. In 2011, the Met refused to impede a crowd engaging in mass looting in Tottenham, because the pillage had theoretically begun as an anti-racist protest. Images of officers standing by while people smashed their way into shops flashed around the country and, the next day, there was looting across British cities.

To call the police institutionally racist, these days, is wide of the mark. Yes, there are individual racists in uniform: with more than 120,000 police officers in the UK, some bad behaviour is statistically inevitable. But, far from being institutionally racist – that is, being an institution where racism is a norm – the police, these days, are institutionally woke, in the sense that their leaders elevate race relations above what ought to be their core functions, such as protecting property, securing public order and enforcing the law impartially.

To be fair, the police are operating within a society which has taken to applying a different test when it comes to self-proclaimed anti-racism. This is most obvious in the tone of our broadcasters. When BLM thugs turned violent, the BBC produced the ludicrous headline, “27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London”. The following week, when a different set of thugs turned violent, it had the more conventional headline, “London protests: more than 100 arrests after violent clashes with police.”

Our state broadcaster is faithfully representing the double-standard of our intellectual elites. Epidemiologists who back the lockdown in all other circumstances say it’s fine to violate its terms as long as you are demonstrating for BLM. Conservationists who normally insist on protecting monuments declare that it is fine to remove statues. Academic institutions that are meant to defend intellectual rigour concede that, if someone’s feelings are hurt, accuracy no longer matters.

These are the political waters in which our coppers are swimming. The Met is answerable to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who condemns the ludicrous statue defenders while refusing to condemn BLM violence – a failure which, in normal times, would disqualify him from office.

But these are not normal times. As sometimes happens when there is a plague (or at least the perceived threat of a plague) we are gripped by a form of end-of-days cultism, which brooks no dissent. Intimidated by the self-righteousness of campaigners, few politicians dare to step into the path of the mob. MPs from all parties feel the need to qualify their condemnations of violence with vague support for the demonstrators’ aims. Several of them literally bend the knee.

To the best of my knowledge, not a single Police and Crime Commissioner has spoken out, either against the excessively heavy-handed way in which the lockdown is enforced for everyone else, or against the refusal even to pretend to enforce it on the protesters.

Police, protesters, politicians, pundits – all are caught up in the general madness. Indeed, everyone seems to be going through a millenarian spasm. Everyone, that is, except the general population, which remains as level-headed as ever.