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James Morris MP column: Crime and punishment still very important in society
8:00am Thursday 30th August 2012 in News
I recently met with Halesowen’s new Police Inspector, Des Lambert, who has recently taken over from Inspector Palmer.
It was a good opportunity to discuss local residents’ priorities and new initiatives to tackle crime in our local communities.
We are fortunate to have so many professional police officers, doing an exceptionally difficult job to make our neighbourhoods safer.
Last month I visited Sandwell Victim Support and the Sandwell Witness Service to see the excellent work that those organisations do.
Although crime is falling across Halesowen and Rowley Regis, for some people the effects of crime can have a devastating effect on their quality of life.
For people directly affected by crime, the fact that crime levels are falling will not bring much comfort. It is important that everything possible is done to make sure that the Police are focussing on local communities’ priorities.
In November voters will choose the first directly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands – the person who will be responsible leading the fight against crime in the area.
Instead of having police priorities set by a mixture of Whitehall bureaucracy and appointed Police Authorities who were not really answerable to anybody, the Commissioner will bring democratic accountability to the Police making sure that communities’ priorities are acted upon.
Chief Constables will still be responsible for the day-to-day management of the Police and will have control of operational decisions, but Commissioners will be able to hold them to account for the performance of their police force.
Before the election, I said that I wanted to see tougher sentences for people found guilty of the most serious offences, and I was delighted to vote in favour of new legislation that will help to make sure that criminals get the punishment that they deserve and society gets the protection that it needs.
Firstly, the legislation means an end to the “revolving door” of prison for the worst offenders. Anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent crime will automatically be given a life sentence.
Secondly, it puts an end to automatic parole halfway through sentences in the cases of the most dangerous sexual and violent criminals.
Thirdly, anyone found guilty of using a knife to threaten or endanger someone else will automatically get a prison sentence.
I believe that a strong professional and accountable police service, backed up by sensible changes to the criminal justice system to put the interests of society ahead of criminals, will help to make our communities even safer.