Posted: Friday 16th September 2016
This week the Home Affairs Select Committee highlighted the fact that there has not been one successful prosecution case of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK as a "national scandal”. I took part in the Home Affairs Select Committee roundtable debate which informed this Committee report. I was grateful for the opportunity to be part of discussions on behalf of both Police and Crime Commissioner’s across England and Wales, and the local people who are working hard to raise awareness and tackle the issue such as Integrate Bristol.
I can understand the dismay of MPs particularly when 30-years after the practice was made illegal in the UK no-one has been convicted. However this should not distract from the excellent work that is going on. I also believe that one prosecution is one more girl we have failed to protect so prevention is paramount.
I am proud to say that Avon and Somerset Constabulary has issued the most FGM Protection Orders in the country. However, these are not just police powers. We need these Protection orders to be issued by local authority social services and other organisations. It is also crucial that we work with communities to stop this practice bringing an end to this harm for the next generation of girls. We all have a collective effort to focus on the issue and help protect the women and girls at risk.
There are also more general, systemic issues that need to be addressed by central government such as making personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) statutory, to help raise awareness of issues such as this. I was happy to join a wide range of signatories in an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for PSHE to be made statutory. Our children deserve to know what healthy relationships look like without abuse or violence.
Since becoming the area’s first Police and Crime Commissioner tackling burglary has been a priority of mine. I am clear that being burgled means more than just the inconvenience of an insurance claim. It can mean you live in fear in the place you should feel safest - your own home. Burglary is extremely disruptive and upsetting and some victims have told me they have never truly recovered from the ordeal.
Despite my commitments this is one area the Constabulary are not performing very well in. Reports of burglary have been increasing across, as of April there had been 11,826 household burglaries over the past year, an increase of 18.9%. At the end of August this had risen to nearly 30%. There also needs to be improvements to the standards of investigation and outcomes for victims.
There are already a number of initiatives underway to improve things such as a new burglary strategy and action plan, the close monitoring of burglary performance as well as changes to call scripts to maximise the securing of forensic evidence from the scene. The priorities contained within the Police and Crime Plan for 2016-21 will ensure there is sufficient police and partner focus on tackling this issue and I will continue to hold the Constabulary to account on your behalf. While I am disappointed with results I know that the Chief Constable is also. We share this frustration, but more importantly, we share the ambition to improve performance for our residents.
There is still time to volunteer to join my Independent Residents' Panel. The Panel are vital to help me in my role scrutinising the Constabulary and offer value feedback in the complaints process. Find out more about joining the Indpendent Residents' Panel or call 01275 816377 to find out more.