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We all have the right to free speech

Posted: Monday 25th January 2016
Blog: Blogs

Like many people I was sad to hear of the attack at the Jamia Mosque, Totterdown. I believe in a democratic society where we all have the right to free speech, to wear what we want and to believe in whatever religion we like. I am sure like me that you too were appalled at such a complete disregard and disrespect for other people’s beliefs. I am thankful that the police have made arrests so promptly and treated this crime with the seriousness it deserves.

This week I attended the first ever National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network, launched by the West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), and the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland. The event saw Police and Crime Commissioners signing up to an agreement to take a more strategic approach to tackle the issue by sharing best practice, assisting in the identification and conviction of perpetrators, and ensuring their Chief Constables are regularly held to account on the work they are doing in tackling this vile crime.

It is hard to imagine that in this day and age slavery still exists however the sad truth is that it does. In 2014, according to Home Office reports, it was suggested that there could be between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK alone. These are shocking statistics by any standards and just highlight how big a problem modern slavery and human trafficking is and continues to be.

Under new plans discussed by the Home Secretary Theresa May this week volunteers could help the police solve cybercrime. Ideas include measures to give more power to support staff and volunteers in England and Wales. Police forces will be able to identify volunteers who specialise in accountancy or computing for cyber and finance inquiries to take on staff or volunteer roles supporting specialist teams. Already as the nature of crime has changed we have seen a shift to specialist staff roles supporting many police teams.

The latest Police and Crime Needs Assessment  looking at the risks, issues and threats that the communities of Avon and Somerset face has already identified that cyber-crime has risen by 62% and safeguarding adult crimes have risen by 141%. There is a huge demand on police resources for these types of crimes and it makes absolute sense to create a more flexible workforce, bring in new skills and free up officers' time to focus fighting crime more widely. Volunteers play an important role but they cannot replace trained professionals we need both to complement each other.

In Hampshire and Gloucestershire they have already launched a pilot scheme to attract volunteers with digital skills to support "digital investigations". I will be watching the pilots closely and asking our new Chief Constable Andy Marsh from Hampshire Constabulary for his views when he starts on February 1.

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