Police Grant Report

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 3:53 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 3:53 pm, 3rd February 2010

The hon. Gentleman makes an astute point. The research consultancy Ibex Insight undertook a study called "Policing Peterborough" in 2005, which made that exact point. To give a simple example, where single women who do not earn very much money are living with younger men in houses in multiple occupation, they are, whether we like it or not, likely to be the victims of offences as serious as sexual assault, theft, intimidation and so on. That was one of the findings of that report, which was commissioned, incidentally, by Cambridgeshire constabulary to support its argument on funding.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right that we are not stigmatising the migrant work force, but saying that both ends of the spectrum-from those who perpetrate crime to those who are the victims-put significant extra pressure on police forces. Around half of all the cases processed through the custody block at Thorpe Wood police station, in the west of Peterborough, involve people whose first language is not English. One can imagine the substantial revenue issues that that raises for Cambridgeshire constabulary. Indeed, the projected cost of translation and interpretation in this financial year is £865,000. The cost of using the interpretation service offered by Language Line Services Ltd runs at approximately £7,300 a month, while 22 per cent. of those using it are Lithuanian, 19 per cent. are Polish and 12 per cent. are Russian, with a significant number-two dozen-of various other languages used.

For that reason alone, Cambridgeshire is deserving of a specific review of its funding, and that is without taking into account the issues of tourism in Cambridge, the organic growth of residential housing in the county and, as touched on by my hon. Friend Mr. Streeter, Gypsies and Travellers, who have crime-related issues that have had a big impact on the south of the county in the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) and for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice).

We would not be so concerned about the issue if the crime figures were not so spectacularly out of kilter with the views of the Minister. In the city area of Peterborough, we are more than twice as likely to experience problems of acquisitive crime, as compared with the English average. The rates for robbery, burglary, sexual offences and theft from a vehicle are all twice as high as the average too, while our rate for violence against the person is one third higher. Indeed, some in my constituency have said that over the past year we have witnessed, on the latest figures, an epidemic of acquisitive crime. Burglaries are up by 20 per cent. and robberies are up by 37.5 per cent. since 2008, notwithstanding the excellent work of Cambridgeshire constabulary, in particular through Operation Alert. It might be as well to mention the great work of Chief Superintendent Andy Hebb and his deputy, Superintendent Paul Fullwood, who are trying their best to deal with having very few officers and an increase in crime.

Policing is only part of the issue. We need to look again at sentencing policies, the role of the judiciary and the message that they send out to victims and criminals and those who would be tempted to commit crime. I mentioned in passing last week one of many examples, I am afraid, from Peterborough Crown court: the case of Lee and Carl Edwards, two brothers in my constituency, who were convicted on 135 counts of burglary between them. The judge at the trial, deputy circuit judge John Farnworth, considered it appropriate to jail them for 30 months and 51 weeks. The message that sends to my constituents-decent, hard-working people who get up in the morning, take their children to school, look smart, take pride in themselves, go to work and earn a decent wage-is that the judicial system does not care about them; it looks after people with so-called chaotic lives, at the so-called fringes of society, and it is more interested in them than hard-working people. That has to be a factor not just in the number of police, but in the way in which the judicial system works. The feeling that some people have is that the system works to the advantage of the criminals, not the victims.

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