Police commissioner elections leave voters baffled and indifferent, says poll

Poll results show elections for newly created posts are at risk from very low turnout, which could benefit extremist candidates

The risk of extremist candidates being elected to police and crime commissioner posts has been exposed by a poll showing that nearly 80% of the public know nothing or very little about the elections, underlining the likelihood of a low turnout of voters.

Elections for police and crime commissioner jobs are being held in November, covering 41 constabularies in England and Wales. They have been presented as part of David Cameron’s attempt to make forces more accountable.

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has described the elections as the biggest change to policing since 1829.

But a survey looking at voters’ knowledge about the poll shows few people know the elections are to take place or understand the purpose of the new posts.

The Populus poll, commissioned by Centreground Political Communications, revealed that 57% of those questioned did not know anything about the elections, and a further 24% “not know much about them”. Of women polled, 71% said they had not heard anything about the elections.

The home secretary, Theresa May, has promised to do more to build up awareness, but the poll suggests she faces an uphill task to prevent pitiful turnouts.

Lack of awareness about the elections is highest among those in the east of England, where 74% had not heard anything about them. This compared with 48% of those in Yorkshire and Humberside, and 48% in the south-west who knew nothing of them. It is possible that the announcement by the former deputy prime minister John Prescott that he will stand for a post in Humberside has increased awareness in the region.

Paul Richards, standing to be Labour’s Ccommissioner candidate in Sussex, said: “There is a real danger that a low turnout will benefit extremist candidates. That would be a disaster for the police force.

“We have already seen in the European parliament elections how low turnout can lead to extremist parties like the BNP being elected. A member of the English Democrats has been elected mayor in Doncaster.”

Labour is due to select its candidates after postal ballots in June. The Conservatives are to select at all-member meetings in July.

The Liberal Democrats seem unlikely to put up a slate of candidates.

Although it is expected that many independent candidates, including former chief constables, will stand, only a few announcements have been made so far.

Of those people asked how they would vote, 28% said they would probably choose a candidate from the political party they normally supported; 26% said they might vote for an independent candidate.

Older people were more likely than younger people to vote for an independent candidate; 10% of those aged 18 to 24 would do this, rising to 39% of those aged 65 and over.

The Populus poll, which was conducted on 8 May, showed that being tough on crime was regarded as the single most important quality for a candidate (47%), followed by experience (44%). Being able to work across communities was regarded as important by only 29%. Labour was seen by those polled as most likely to produce the best candidates (19%), followed by the Conservatives (13%).

Darren Murphy, chief executive of the consultancy Centreground Political Communications, said: “These elections are unique in our democratic history. The challenge for the political parties is to engage the public interest in new ways whilst not appearing to be politicising policing.”

Police commissioner elections leave voters baffled and indifferent, says poll


Crime rates could rise as police cuts bite, warns Acpo chief

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One’s phone’s gone orf!

Queen’s moment of exasperation as Philip’s mobile goes off in his pocket during royal walkabout

It’s a moment of panic familiar to the best of us – a mobile phone going off at an inopportune moment. So there was sympathy and smiles for Prince Philip when his phone went off in his pocket as he arrived for a royal walkabout in Bromley today.

But – also like the rest of us – he got an unamused look from his wife as he fumbled in his raincoat to switch off the offending item.

However that was the only tiny blip during the Queen’s visit to Bromley, the sun even managed to make an appearance after a morning of heavy rain during which the waiting crowds had cowered beneath their brollies.

The royal couple were met by deafening cheers and a sea of Union flags, spending around ten minutes in Market Square greeting the crowds.

One’s phone’s gone orf!

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Angry Rebekah Brooks attacks police and prosecutors over charges

Rebekah Brooks angrily attacked police and prosecutors for dragging her friends and family into the phone hacking scandal tonight as she said she was “baffled” to face charges.

Leaving the station: An hour later Mrs Brooks emerged from the station and was whisked off in a black BMW

The former News International chief executive said allegations that she, her husband and four others plotted to hide evidence were “an expensive sideshow and a waste of public money”.

In a defiant statement delivered outside her solicitor’s London office, she added: “Although I understand the need for a thorough investigation, I am baffled by the decision to charge me. However I cannot express my anger enough that those close to me have unfairly been dragged into this.”

The 43-year-old and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie stood side-by-side to brand the charging decisions as a “witch hunt” against her.

Mrs Brooks said: “Whilst I have always respected the criminal justice system, I have to question today whether this decision was made on a proper impartial assessment of the evidence.”

Mr Brooks said: “I feel today is an attempt to use me and others as scapegoats, the effect of which is to ratchet up the pressure on my wife, who I believe is the subject of a witch hunt.

“There are 172 police officers, about the equivalent of eight murder squads, working on this; so it doesn’t surprise me that the pressure is on to prosecute, no matter how weak the cases will be.

“I have no doubt that the lack of evidence against me will be borne out in court but I have grave doubts that my wife can ever get a fair trial, given the huge volume of biased commentary which she has been subjected to.

“We will fight this in court.”

The couple will appear in court on June 13 alongside her former PA, Cheryl Carter and chauffeur Paul Edwards charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mark Hanna, head of security at News International and security consultant Daryl Jorsling also face single counts of conspiring with her.

Mrs Brooks was charged with three counts, including that she removed boxes of material from the News International archive and tried to conceal documents, computers and other material from the multimillion-pound Scotland Yard inquiry.


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Scotland Yard sacks Ali Dizaei for second time

Corrupt police chief Ali Dizaei has lost his job at Scotland Yard for a second time.

The 49-year-old, who has twice been jailed for corruption, was dismissed from his post as commander after an internal disciplinary tribunal.

A spokesman for Dizaei confirmed the ruling but added: “His case against the Metropolitan Police Service and his conviction is not over.”

The sacking was a formality after his career was effectively ended by his conviction for misconduct and perverting the course of justice at a retrial in February.

He received a three-year prison sentence – reduced by the time he already spent behind bars after guilty verdicts in 2010 were quashed a year later by the Court of Appeal.

Dizaei won his job back with the Metropolitan Police before the retrial, but had been suspended on full salary, pending the disciplinary process.

Dizaei’s spokesman said he “has been down this road before where he was prematurely dismissed from the force in 2010 when there was a live appeal against his conviction”.

He said: “He notes with interest how the Met remained silent when he won his appeal and was reinstated last year and today the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) department of public affairs is busy shouting his dismissal from rooftops to the media.

“There is (an) ongoing appeal against his conviction and Dr Dizaei has issued employment tribunal proceedings against the MPS with regard to his treatment scheduled to be heard in February 2013.”

Scotland Yard sacks Ali Dizaei for second time

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Merseyside Police chief Jon Murphy’s vow on gun crime

Jon Murphy Chief Constable Jon Murphy says he wants to change the mindset of young people who carry guns

The chief constable of Merseyside Police has vowed to tackle gun crime, after eight shooting incidents in the region in nine days.

Jon Murphy is lobbying the government for tighter border controls to cut down on the supply of weapons and wants tougher punishments for offenders.

He has met with local councils and other agencies to discuss how they can fight gun crime together.

Mr Murphy said he wants to change the culture of young people who carry guns.

Merseyside Police said the chief constable had already met representatives from each of the area’s five local authorities, as well as other partner organisations, including the Crown Prosecution Service, Courts Service, Mersey Fire and Rescue Service and the prisons.

‘Tough enforcement’

Mr Murphy said work already done with those bodies in north Liverpool and Knowsley had had an “overwhelming impact” on gun crime.

“Merseyside is not unique in the problems we encounter”

Chief Constable Jon Murphy Merseyside Police

And he praised the work of the force’s Matrix team, made up of detectives and officers who target gun crime offenders.

“There’s also a vital part to play in dismantling the illegal importation and supply of weapons into this country,” he said.

“We need support nationally to tighten our borders and prevent weapons from coming into the UK.

“Merseyside is not unique in the problems we encounter and there needs to be a national commitment to ridding our streets of guns.”

His words come after an unprecedented number of shootings at the end of April, non of which were fatal.

Jackie Harris, Knowsley Council’s cabinet member for community safety and social inclusion, said tackling gun crime in her area remained a high priority.

“We intend to build on some of the exemplary practices we have employed in the last few years that have yielded some excellent results, including tough enforcement, preventing young people from becoming involved, and rehabilitating individuals who have shown a real commitment to changing behaviour.

“We are fully supportive of the chief constable’s refresh of this strategy and fully endorse that a partnership approach is required.”

Merseyside Police chief Jon Murphy’s vow on gun crime

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Reform Concerns: ‘ACPO Could Have Done More’

Association should have warned the government of the realities of its reform agenda, says senior Fed rep.Reform Concerns: 'ACPO Could Have Done More'

The senior echelons of the Police Service could have done more to challenge the far-reaching package of government reform, a senior Federation official has said.

In an interview with PoliceOracle.com, Julie Nesbit, who is chairing the Constables’ Central Conference today, May 15, believed that ACPO had not done enough to tell ministers about the ramifications of the course of action they were taking.

“I have felt let down by ACPO since the beginning of the reform process.”

She said that issues such as the 20 per cent funding cut across the service should have been more openly challenged and fully considered before being allowed to go ahead.

Ms Nesbit, who also represents the interests of female constables, said: “In my view ACPO had the responsibility to point out what (cuts) would mean for the police.

“It is disappointing that the Association has not supported the service in the way.”

Ms Nesbit was speaking after being challenged by Women’s Eve of Conference facilitator John Stapleton, who suggested that the Police Service should shoulder its fair share of reductions in the face of the national debt crisis.

Mr Stapleton went on to point out that a number of public sector workers were battling to meet the challenge and many had lost their jobs along the way.

But Ms Nesbit maintained that the police “is the public service that underpins other public services” and that other organisations could not function without it.

Applauded by fellow members, she told the conference at the Bournemouth International Centre: “I have felt let down by ACPO since the beginning of the reform process.”

A team from PoliceOracle.com will be bringing you full coverage of the conference – May 15 will see the Constables’, Sergeants’ and Inspectors’ committees meeting in the morning and national Chairman Paul McKeever will address delegates this afternoon.

A later panel discussion will see a line-up including Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Nick Herbert, his opposition counterpart David Hanson and Ch Supt Derek Barnett, President of the Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales.

Reform Concerns: ‘ACPO Could Have Done More’

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Met policeman shot dead at station

Firearms officer in ‘suicide riddle’ after he is found with gunshot wounds at police station

A firearms officer has died after walking into a police station and shooting himself.

The Metropolitan Police constable, who was in his 30s, was found seriously injured suffering from gunshot wounds at North Woolwich police station in East London on Sunday afternoon.

No members of the public or police officers saw the apparent suicide.
Scene: The Metropolitan Police constable was found at North Woolwich police station on Saturday afternoon

Scene: The Metropolitan Police constable was found at North Woolwich police station on Saturday afternoon

Police and paramedics tried to save him, but he died 22 minutes later.

Last night the force was facing questions about whether there had been any prior indications that he should not be allowed to hold a weapon.

It was unclear last night whether the officer, who worked in the Aviation Security Command at London City Airport, was on duty at the time, but early indications are that his death was not related to his work.

The force is not seeking anyone else in connection with the death of the PC, who has yet to be formally identified.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said his next of kin have been informed.

A spokesman said: ‘A serving Metropolitan Police officer was found suffering gunshot injuries at North Woolwich police station at approx 2.30pm on Sunday, 13 May.

‘London Ambulance Service attended. The male officer, aged in his 30s, was pronounced dead at 2.52pm.

‘We await formal identification. A report is being prepared for the coroner by officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards.’

Met policeman shot dead at station

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Owners of dangerous dogs face stiffer sentences

Sentencing Council issues new guidelines including longer prison terms and broader definition of ‘vulnerable’ victims

Police dog handlers remove a pitbull during a raid

Police dog handlers remove a pitbull during a raid

More owners of dangerous dogs will be imprisoned, under guidelines issued to judges and magistrates by the Sentencing Council.

The decision to impose harsher punishments follows a spate of high-profile attacks by dogs. Animal welfare organisations were among the groups who contributed to a public consultation organised by the Sentencing Council, whose guidance helps judges and magistrates assess – within existing legislation – the severity of offences.

There were no previous guidelines under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, but courtroom data shows the top of the range for sentencing those convicted of allowing an animal to cause injury in a public place was about 12 months in prison. The new advice says it should be 18 months.

“The new guideline will mean more offenders will face jail sentences, more will get community orders and fewer will receive discharges,” the Sentencing Council said. “It will also help courts make the best use of their powers so that irresponsible owners who put the public at risk can be banned from keeping dogs, genuinely dangerous dogs can be put down and compensation can be paid to victims.”

The definition of “vulnerable victims” has been broadened to apply to disabled and elderly people as well as children. Injuries to other animals and possession of dog-fighting equipment may now be considered as aggrevating factors.

Tim Godwin, a member of the Sentencing Council and a former deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said: “This will mean more people facing jail and stiffer sentences if the victim is vulnerable, such as child or a public-sector worker.” Post Office employees in particular have suffered from attacks. In March, five police officers were injured by a pitbull terrier in Newham, east London; the animal was shot dead.

Anne Arnold, a district judge and another member of the Sentencing Council, said: “Most dog owners are responsible and take good care of their pets, but we’ve seen more and more cases coming before the courts of owners who have put the public at risk or let their dog cause injuries – sometimes very serious – to people. This new sentencing guideline encourages courts to use their full powers when dealing with offenders so that they are jailed where appropriate.”

The guidelines come into effect on 20 August. The council’s sentencing ranges do not normally go up to the legal maximum permitted by any act, allowing for judges and magistrates to enforce harsher penalties beyond the guidelines in exceptional cases.

Where dogs are used as weapons, offenders will normally be charged with an assault offence, which carries higher sentences than those set out for offences covered by the Dangerous Dogs Act.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is consulting on whether powers under the 1991 act should be extended to include compulsory microchipping of all dogs and a criminal offence for possession an out-of-control animal even on private property.

The Defra consultation lists five fatal attacks by dogs between 2007 and 2010 in which the victims died in a private home. They include the case of 52-year-old Barbara Williams, savaged by a Belgian mastiff in Wallington, Surrey, and that of four-year-old John-Paul Massey, mauled by a bull mastiff in Liverpool in 2009.

Lord Taylor, the Defra minister responsible for animal welfare, said: “We’ve seen tragic instances of attacks by dangerous dogs, and irresponsible dog ownership has a serious impact on many of our communities. The new guidelines … show the seriousness with which this problem is being taken.”

Owners of dangerous dogs face stiffer sentences

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Police leader: Government values overseas aid more than security

Ministers appear to value overseas aid more than keeping British citizens safe, a police leader has suggested.

Ministers appear to value overseas aid more than keeping British citizens safe, a police leader has suggested.

Police forces must make savings of £1.5bn by 2014-15, leading to the loss of front-line posts

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, questioned why the Coalition has increased spending on the Department for International Development by a third while cutting forces’ budgets by a fifth.

He warned that the public could be left at greater risk because of cuts to police services, while officers themselves are demoralised by reforms to their pay, pensions and conditions.

His comments come after the Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, organised the largest ever police rally, with some 35,000 off-duty police marching through central London in protest at what they see as “criminal” Government cuts.

The officers’ anger is likely to be directed at Theresa May, the Home Secretary, when she addresses the Federation’s annual conference in Bournemouth on Wednesday.

Mr McKeever told the BBC’s Daily Politics programme on Monday that he and his fellow delegates would ask her “why has the Coalition given policing such a low priority”.

“Why is it that they’ve chosen to increase some budgets like overseas development by 34 per cent which will be a larger budget than policing.”

In one of the Government’s first controversial decisions, it was announced that the DfID budget would rise from £7.8bn to £11.5bn over the course of the Parliament despite serious concerns that some money goes to fast-developing countries such as China and India, while aid programmes in poorer nations are often poorly-managed.

At the same time, cuts to public services in Britain mean that police forces must make savings of £1.5bn by 2014-15, leading to the loss of front-line posts.

Mr McKeever said that police officers accepted the Government had a difficult task to reduce the deficit and that some cuts had to be made.

“But we do say cuts of 20 per cent or more is going to be disastrous for policing.

“During the riots we managed to get 16,000 out on the streets to quell those riots. That is almost darkly, poetically, the amount we’re going to lose over the next few years.

“It cannot but have major consequences for officers, for the service and most of all for the public whose safety is being put at risk through some of the changes.

“There are some real doubts in our minds that we’re going to be able to keep the public safe.

“We cannot understand why the Government has given policing such a low priority. The first duty of any Government is the protection of its citizens.”

Ministers are also determined to shake up pay and conditions in the police force, making officers work longer and pay more into their retirement funds as well as making it easier for them to be sacked. Many forces are also outsourcing back-office functions to private firms.

Mr McKeever said: “Some of the budget cuts and reforms are leading to fundamental changes in British policing.

“The independence that we have, the accountability that we have is being lost in some parts by the wholesale privatisation of forces which we’re seeing across the country.

“You’ve got hugely disillusioned police forces. Almost every officer off duty was in London last week demonstrating.”

Police leader: Government values overseas aid more than security

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