Robert Peel’s vision for the police was that
“the police are the public and the public are the police”.
That could not be embodied any better than in the enormous contribution made by special constables to police forces across the country. The latest statistics show that 18,000 special constables were working alongside police officers and saving an estimated £75 million last year in man hours. It is impossible for anyone to speak in this debate without acknowledging the huge challenges that police forces have faced in relation to their budgets. In that environment, we are clearly going to place increasing reliance on special constables. They are volunteers who come from all walks of life and all backgrounds. If we were having a conversation with a special constable on the street, we probably could not tell him from any other officer. He is a warranted officer, he has had the same training and he stands shoulder to shoulder with other officers. Special constables are invaluable and they give up their free time to keep us safe on our streets.
With that in mind, I wanted to discuss the case of Andrew Blades, a constituent who was a special constable in Lancashire. He worked as a special for six years, giving more than 2,500 hours to the people in Rossendale, Darwen, Burnley and beyond in east Lancashire, keeping us safe. He moved an unmarked police car across a road to block the way of an oncoming unlicensed, un-MOTed, uninsured scrambler motorbike that had been terrorising the neighbourhood. We should be lauding him as a hero, because not only did he stop a crime being committed, but he protected a fellow officer. Unfortunately, however, his payment for that—for taking those brave, split-second decisions on our behalf as a volunteer—was to be prosecuted for dangerous driving, a case he admitted and for which he has been sentenced to a year’s ban.
The case was well covered in the newspapers and I wish to read out a comment from someone in an online newspaper. This person had probably come home from work and was looking at the online newspapers, and they said:
“It really isn’t often I feel outrage but tonight reading this story has left me outraged and speechless”.
Guess what, I agree with him and so do 1,500 readers of the newspaper. When the Minister comes to the Dispatch Box, I would be grateful if he would take the opportunity to inform the House of what further steps he will take to protect special constables, particularly bearing in mind the unanimous resolution of the Police Federation to extend its protection to special constables? I also ask him to see what the Government can do about paying their Police Federation subs for them.