Posted: Friday 8th January 2016
My Christmas and New Year thoughts were firmly with the people and families hit by the devastating flooding in Cumbria and Yorkshire. I am sure that the distressing scenes must have brought back many bad memories for those Somerset residents whose own homes were devastated by flooding in early 2014. Christmas was ruined for thousands of residents in the north of England and once again we are reminded of how thankful we are to our emergency services who work hard over the festive break to keep us safe and who give up their own special family time to help others. I am sure that the people of Cumbria and Yorkshire are thankful to all the volunteers from Somerset including Exmoor Search and Rescue who supported efforts in the wake of the storms.
My aspirations for 2016 in my role as Police and Crime Commissioner remain unchanged. I want the police to continue to focus on tackling sexual and domestic violence, burglary, anti-social behaviour and putting victims first. These priorities are just as important to me now as they were over three years ago when I was first elected. These are the things that local people tell me matters to them, and that is why it is important that the Constabulary continue to make sure that these areas are prioritised.
I am already pleased to see this year that a new domestic abuse law has come into effect which recognises controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. The new offence carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a fine. Domestic and sexual abuse is an inexcusable form of cruelty, no one has the right to control or abuse another person either physically or mentally.
There are no excuses for domestic abuse and that is why I’ve made tackling this terrible crime a priority within Avon and Somerset. I believe you should be able to trust your loved ones and have a mutual respect for one another. I hope that this law change will give victims the confidence to come forward to report and seek support.
There will inevitably still be other areas of focus within policing over the coming year such as the 101 non-emergency number. Residents are still writing to me to say that they have experienced delays. On Wednesday 88% of the 1,797 calls were answered within 60 seconds although on the whole the service is still not where I would like it to be. Before Christmas I invested £25,000 of the PCC budget to maintain resources in the communications centre to ensure that the current level of service and staff resources could be maintained. I will shortly be reviewing the Constabulary’s action plan for the communications centre to make that local people are receiving the service they rightly expect.