The Value of PCCs

On Monday, 16th April, Suzy Lamplugh Trust launched a report looking at the police response to stalking in England and Wales.

Stalking is a devastating crime, affecting 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men across their lifetime.  Victims can develop anxiety, depression and agoraphobia; 50 per cent of victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder.  Many victims feel so concerned or fearful about what is happening that they feel the need to change their behaviour to feel safer, including not going out in public, reducing social outings, and moving home.

The report released on Monday is a repeat of research completed two years ago looking at recorded crime figures, and Police and Crime Commissioner funding for specialist services for the 1.1 million people who experience stalking every year in England and Wales.  Indeed, Police and Crime Commissioners have access to a £68 million funding pot from the Ministry of Justice specifically to fund practical and emotional support services for victims in their area.  Just 0.25% of that funding is spent on supporting victims of this nuanced and complex crime.

When PCCs were introduced in 2012 I know the Liberal Democrats were against them, as the idea of having a politically elected representative in charge of each police force felt wrong.  Police and Crime Commissioners hold an extraordinary amount of power.  It is their role to set the strategic plan for their area, to hold the Chief Constable to account, and, among other things, to fund local victim services in their area.

Police and Crime Commissioners have the potential to look holistically at policing and services available and create a holistic system to support people locally.  Charities working with criminal justice and victim support recognise their value and their power to influence.

As a party, it is time to embrace this role. We may not have liked it, but to support our constituents better we should be fielding our best and most ambitious candidates and aiming to make real change for victims of crime in our areas.

The report can be found at https://www.suzylamplugh.org/report-launch-out-of-sight-out-of-mind-two-years-on.

* Victoria Charleston has been a member of Liberal Democrats since 2011 and currently works for Suzy Lamplugh Trust. All views are her own.

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6 Comments

  • Richard Church 20th Apr '18 - 8:53am

    That is an excellent justification for funding to help the victims of stalking, but it is no justification for the need for PCC’s. to do it.

    As you say, PCC’s have an enormous amount of power, with very weak checks on how they exercise that power, one dud elected on a 10% turnout and the best we can hope for is that a good chief constable fills in the gap until the next election or that a bad chief constable runs rings round them. That sadly in what happens.

    David Steel once said that power is like muck, it’s better spread around than concentrated in one place. The old police authorities were not perfect but by combining elected councillors together with members appointed for their specific skills they can offer they could provide a more effective and impartial scrutiny of the police service.

    My Police Commissioner serves an area covering half of Wales. To the public he is invisible, and that’s not his fault. Police Commissioners have weakened the link between the Police and Local Government. We need to replace Police Commissioners with a more effective means of holding the Police to account at a local level, promotes properly joined up working between the Police and other public services and ensure money on projects such as that you describe on stalking is spent effectively.

  • Ronald Murray 20th Apr '18 - 10:22am

    Speaking from Scotland I see no need for Police and Crime Commissioners at all the old Police committees were more than adequate. Even madder is putting the Fire & Rescue Service under these commissioners purely a political game by the Tories.

  • John Marriott 20th Apr '18 - 7:34pm

    From 2001 to 2009 I was a County Councillor member of the Lincolnshire Police Authority before standing down in favour of another Lib Dem colleague. Despite the variable quality of political members, although, in fairness, not from the ranks of the magistracy or the public, we managed to hold a succession of Chief Constables and Senior Officers to account, helped greatly by the ‘advice’ of a very savvy Police Authority Treasurer/Clerk and his team. I would like to think that the Police ‘professionals’ took us seriously. They certainly always treated us with respect, even when we occasionally managed to land a few blows, so to speak, which challenged some of their ideas and possibly made them reassess some aspects of their performance.

    I, like many of my colleagues of ALL parties, was aghast when it was decided upon high arbitrarily to abolish PAs and bring in a North American idea which had no track record in these islands. I believe that it had been the Lib Dems’ original intention to boycott the first elections for PCC and I fully supported the decision of the Lincolnshire Lib Dems not to put forward a candidate, a decision that was upheld the second time the election came round. Unfortunately, when someone shouts “Election” there are some in the party who just can’t resist. So solidarity fell at the first hurdle. Had the original elections coincided with the May local elections then perhaps, with a higher turnout, the ‘winners’ might have been considered to have carried with them a slightly greater legitimacy. However, by succumbing to blandishments, largely, I gather, from their coalition partners, the Tories agreed to postpone the first PCC elections to the Autumn, with derisory turnouts of levels of around 15%, which gave a mandate to nobody.

    Our first PCC, an Independent, attained a certain national notoriety when he suspended the then Chief Constable for reasons never properly explained. What ensued was a farce of epic proportions, made worse by the inability to challenge the decision on the part of the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel, whose functions in their apparent vagueness, appeared, to those of us with some experience in these matters, to have been drawn up on the back of the proverbial fag packet. It cost the tax payer thousands and ended in the Chief Constable being reinstated. How the two managed to work together until they both departed the scene heaven only knows.

  • John Marriott 22nd Apr '18 - 8:35am

    It’s a pity that not many people appear to be interested in the subject of PCC’s. However, just consider this pearl:

    When a PCC is elected, they are allowed, if they wish, to choose and provide a salary for a ‘Deputy’. As far as I know, this person’s name never appears on the ballot paper, so, if something were to happen at some stage to prevent their boss from carrying out their duties, I guess that they would take over, with no electoral mandate at all. Unless someone else knows better.

  • The value of a PCC, is to be another person the Home Office to blame when their policies go tits up.

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