Criminal Justice System

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill

The main thrust of my work for the last week has been working in the Criminal Justice System. I have held numerous meetings with partners, exploring how we can expand Neighbourhood Justice Panels to other areas of Dorset. I am keen to see the panels extended into the conurbation and plans are going well in that regard.

I have also written to the Home Secretary about public frustration over the lack of accountability of the Crown Prosecution Service and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service. I am determined to improve outcomes for victims and witnesses and in my letter to the Home Secretary, I outlined two key concerns.

1)    The public have a huge say in police service delivery through surveys, consultations and the role of the PCC. However, I am not aware of one survey that the public are asked to complete in relation to Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service or the Crown Prosecution Service.

2)    I am determined to improve the journey for victims, yet have no power as a PCC to challenge the performance of the Courts and Crown Prosecution Service. As the ‘gatekeeper’ for victim care, I feel I should be able to hold all agencies to account.

I have called on the Home Secretary to help change the system and to make the Courts and CPS more accountable to the public and to me, in my role as a Police and Crime Commissioner. Please do get in touch if you have a view on this?

Last week also saw more speculation over the badger cull. We have not received any confirmation from the Government that this will be introduced in Dorset. I cannot comment further until the Government sets the direction.

We have also seen a lot of speculation over human trafficking after the widely reported case in West Howe and this is an opportune time to remind everybody that trafficking, especially sexual exploitation and work slavery, does happen here in Dorset. I congratulate the Daily Echo for it’s recent coverage on this issue. I work with partners, charities (such as Purple Teardrop and the Salvation Army) and Dorset Police to raise awareness and to increase training to practitioners in various agencies, including the Force.

West Howe has been designated as a key regeneration area by myself and Bournemouth Borough Council. I visited Heathlands school last week and was impressed with the new building and the attitudes of the head and the staff. I came away determined to pilot some form of Early Intervention model in West Howe which can really have an impact on young children’s lives. Watch this space!

I am delighted that the government appears to have listened not just on Eve’s Law, but on the victims funding issue that I blogged about a few days ago. We heard on Friday that the Policing Minister is urgently reviewing his stand of removing funding pre-2010 for homicide families and I welcome that review.

Some of last week’s lobbying and debate has been over the prison books issue which you can read about here. You can view the other side of the argument from Chris Grayling here. Please let me know your thoughts?

If you talk about lobbying, sometimes you conjure up an image of a student campaigning and this reminds me of my visit to Bournemouth University last week where I met Murray, the current President of the Students Union. Murray and I discussed student issues and the key one to me was the attitude and perception of crime and safety in the 17,000 strong community. Murray and I are going to work together to survey that strong and vibrant community to better understand their needs.

I have also been exploring options with partners in relation to homeless and vagrancy issues that are affecting Bournemouth currently. This complex and multi-agency issue needs a lot of attention and I will update you on this in my next blog. If you have any views on how to tackle homelessness and vagrancy, please do contact me?

And finally, I am honoured to have been selected as the Gold Award winner from CoPACC for community engagement. This award is humbling and is as much a reflection on my team, as well as on myself. I am glad our interactive public forums, Advocates and other exciting initiatives have been recognised on a national level.

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