• Tough on Crime

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    07 February 2020

    I have listened to many Queen’s Speeches and cannot remember a Government of any party giving greater priority to law, order and justice reform than we have seen during the past month. I wrote about the legislative side of this in my article a fortnight ago when I outlined some of the 14 bills that will be introduced in this Parliament relating to policing, counter-tourism and our justice system (the article is available at This commitment to reform is being matched with increases in Government funding, with Devon and Cornwall Police set to receive £23.4 million more funding compared to last year – an increase of 7.4%. Nationally, the police force will receive an additional £1.1 billion – the largest increase in a decade. So why should justice reform and policing be an urgent priority?

    Firstly, there have been too many cases where punishments have simply been too lenient. The Government is ending the automatic half-way release for serious violent and sexual offenders, and last year I voted for the tenfold increase in the maximum sentencing for animal cruelty – from six months to five years. Secondly, there has rightly been a shift in attitudes towards crimes which have previously not been treated seriously enough. Sexual harassment has perhaps been the highest profile of these, but stalking is another, and on 20th January the Stalking Protection Act came into force which places greater legal restrictions on perpetrators. Breaches can result in up to 5 years in prison. Thirdly, more crimes are taking longer to investigate. In our digital age cybercrime involves the police combing through huge amounts of online data, and counter-terrorism operations can involve months or years of monitoring and surveillance. The drugs trade has also evolved. County Lines (where gangs from larger cities expand their operations to smaller rural towns) has become a major problem. Often their operation involves drugs being ordered from several counties away, with children or vulnerable adults being used to deliver the drugs and collect the cash. In other cases, dealers will take over a local property belonging to a vulnerable person and use it to operate from. Since the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre was set up a year ago more intelligence is being shared between forces and the centre has co-ordinated action which has led to over 2,500 arrests and safeguarded more than 3,000 vulnerable people, but there is still a great deal more to do. Fourthly, there is greater recognition that catching criminals is only one part of policing. We are more conscious than ever before about providing proper support for victims. 

    If we are asking our police to investigate more complicated crimes, be more alert to domestic terrorism and provide greater support for victims, and if we want to see the most serious offenders looked up for longer, we need to make policing and justice reform a priority and it is right that we are.

    For more from Mel follow him on twitter @MelJStride or visit