Three minutes is limited, so I will focus on one core aspect of the Bill. I got my first taste of the criminal justice system when I was 13. My dad went to the pub and never came home after receiving a single blow to the head that killed him instantly. From never really having dealings with the criminal justice system, my family was thrust into a whirlwind of police meetings, lawyers’ appointments and court dates, all while trying to deal with the suffocating grief of losing my dad, and that has given me a deep desire to ensure that the criminal justice system works for the victims of crime.
I recently launched an all-party parliamentary group to investigate the rare but damaging phenomenon of one-punch assaults, with an emphasis on sentencing. I wish now that I had been able to get started earlier to feed in some meaningful and evidence-backed proposals to this Bill, but I am grateful to the Justice Secretary none the less for agreeing to meet next week to discuss the APPG’s work. I hope that together we can make some progress in delivering a fairer sense of justice for the left-behind families of one-punch assault victims.
The events that followed losing my dad were the darkest times I have ever known, but in those dark times were points of light in the incredible police officers who helped to support our family. I particularly pay tribute once again to Karen Cocker and Sue Best, our family liaison officers, without whom we would not have been able to navigate the court process with our sanity intact.
After scenes such as those we saw reported at the weekend, it becomes somewhat trendy to turn against our police and denigrate those who devote their lives to keeping us safe. The unfairness of all police being tarred with the same brush based on the actions of a tiny minority is surely something with which we can empathise in this place, given the unfairness of all politicians being held to account for the actions of the worst of us.
Since I was 13, I have had the utmost respect for our police. They run into the face of danger while we run away, stand face to face with armed criminals to keep us safe and are at the frontline of major national crises. The national policing wellbeing survey revealed that a shocking 67% of police officers report post-traumatic stress symptoms and that the average officer shows moderately high symptoms of anxiety. That is why I wholeheartedly supported the Conservative party manifesto commitment to deliver the police covenant—the people of Bishop Auckland elected me on that commitment, which we will deliver through this Bill.
It is our duty to protect the mental health and wellbeing of the police, just as it is their duty to protect us. The Bill will make it a legal requirement for the Home Secretary to report to Parliament each year on what steps they are taking on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of police personnel and their families. Through the Bill, we are also ensuring that our incredible police officers have the powers they need to keep us safe and to secure prosecutions. We are seeking to protect the public and to protect our protectors, both police officers and emergency service workers. I finish with a question. What message does it send that the Labour party is voting against this?