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Meet the candidates standing for Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner

LIVE: General election 2019 in Slough

The candidates standing in the upcoming Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner election have outlined their priorities for policing in the region.

Residents will go to the polls on Thursday, May 6 to choose a new person for the role.

Key responsibilities include holding the chief constable to account over policing, setting the force’s budget and providing a link between communities and the police.

The Advertiser spoke to the candidates standing for election to find out their pledges on policing. 

John Howson - Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat representative John Howson has prioritised ensuring swift justice for victims of crime and raised concerns about the delays in cases coming to court.

The 74-year-old, who served as a magistrate in Oxfordshire for 22 years, said: “The tragedy is it was already bad before the pandemic and the Ministry of Justice has got to get us back to an equilibrium which is acceptable because victims cannot be left hanging around to get a slot at Crown Court.

“Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The former teacher was stabbed while working at a school in Tottenham, North London, in 1977 and has also been the subject of three serious burglaries in his lifetime and he said this has helped him understand the need for effective victim support.

Mr Howson also criticised the ‘cavalier’ consultation held by Thames Valley Police which has seen front office counter provision across the region reduced. Matthew Barber

Matthew Barber - Conservative Party

Conservative candidate Matthew Barber has served as the force’s deputy police and crime commissioner since 2016.

The 40-year-old said he wants to strengthen local policing to tackle neighbourhood crimes such as car theft and anti-social behaviour.

Mr Barber said he is committed to ensuring a fair and firm response to illegal encampments and spoke up in favour of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The legislation, which is currently being discussed in Parliament, could see residing in a vehicle on land without permission become a criminal offence.

The Conservative candidate said: “We don’t want to criminalise people who are going about an otherwise lawful, nomadic lifestyle. It’s about the impact on communities and ensuring the powers police have really match the expectations of the public.”

He added he wants the force to build on a reduction in knife crime seen in the Thames Valley over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic and change the culture where people think it is fine to carry a blade. 

Laetisia Carter - Labour and Co-operative Party

Labour candidate Laetisia Carter is pledging to cut crime by prioritising action on violence against women and young girls and fraud and cyber crime.

The West Oxfordshire councillor has pledged to work to reverse ‘damaging police cuts’ which have affected the number of PCSOs working in the region and seen front counter closures in the Thames Valley.

She believes that being the “right woman” – gives her a unique perspective.

“Women are 50 per cent of the population and if all people have to choose from is another well-meaning middle class, middle aged white man then nothing much is going to change.”

She added: “I am not a career politician, I’ve worked across mental health and schools.

“I can see that we need real change, which is why I stood.”

Although she is involved in political battles she recognises that people are uncomfortable with policing and politics being mixed, and with the police being “used by the state”.

“We’re in the 11th year of a Conservative government and the ninth year of a Conservative PCC and people aren’t impressed. Violence and knife crime are up,” she said.

Alan Robinson - Independent  

Independent candidate Alan Robinson served as a frontline police officer for 25 years and has pledged to get ‘Bobby back on the Beat’ to reassure the public with a visible police presence.

He said his independent status will leave him free from party political interference and said he wanted to focus on real crimes that affected residents the most such as burglary, theft, violent and sexual crimes and organised crime and gangs.

Mr Robinson added the public deserve a ‘visible and engaged’ police service with officers serving the public rather than a ‘never-ending quest for statistics’.

"I could be enjoying my retirement, but I just simply couldn’t sit back and let the Police Service continue to disengage with our communities and demoralise its officers and staff," he added.

 "If policing is broken, society is broken."

Additional reporting by Local Democracy Reporter David Tooley.

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