WITH almost 20,000 domestic abuse-related crimes and more than 3,500 hate crimes in Avon and Somerset recorded in 2020, John Smith, independent candidate in the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections, pledges to protect the most vulnerable from harm if elected.
His plans include launching a Violence Against Women and Girls strategy.
Mr Smith said: “Recognising that one of the most important roles the police play is to protect the vulnerable from crime and to help those who are victims of crime, I will work with the police and partner agencies to ensure that vulnerable people across Avon and Somerset get the essential support they need if elected on Thursday, May 6.
“Recently, we have seen several very concerning examples of male attitudes to women in our society which contribute to women and girls feeling unsafe.
“If elected, I would develop a Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy which looks at cultural issues in schools and the workplace, lobby for misogyny to become a hate crime and develop a strategy towards safety of women and girls in public spaces in our area including while exercising and during the Night Time Economy.”
“My plans also include:
- Supporting victims and targeting offenders of domestic abuse: If elected, I will work with the police and other partners to continue to support victims and increase the targeting of offenders. I pledge to both reduce the numbers of these crimes being committed while at the same time increasing the reporting of these crimes by victims.
- Improving support for victims of rape and serious sexual offences: The Criminal Justice System is too often not serving these victims well. I am pledging to provide additional investment to ensure that all victims of these crimes are listened to, believed and supported, including funding Independent Sexual Violence Advisers and expert legal advocates in court to support victims through their court cases and providing specialist and trauma-informed training within the police force.
- Protecting children from exploitation including child sexual exploitation: As former Deputy PCC, I was part of the team to introduce an Avon and Somerset-wide specialist support service for victims of child sexual exploitation as well as Operation Topaz to identify and safeguard vulnerable children. I will continue to champion these.
- A zero-tolerance approach to hate crimes: All hate crimes should be handled proactively and fairly so that all communities feel equally safe. Avon and Somerset Police already work in partnership with organisations such as Stand Against Racism and Inequality to transform its approach to identifying and supporting victims of hate crime, and I am pledging to support this work.
- Improve support for people in mental health crisis: Mental health was a factor in 30% of all incidents attended by the police in Avon and Somerset last year. There are now mental health practitioners in the police control room to advise police officers and I will continue to work with NHS Mental Health commissioners to ensure that vulnerable people get the right support from the best professionals at the right time. In particular, I will lobby for additional mental health provision for people experiencing mental health crisis and for police cells not to be recognised as places of safety for people in mental health crisis.
Mr Smith added: “Overstretched officers are often finding themselves with responsibility for some of the most vulnerable people in society, many which would be far better dealt with by specially trained partner agencies.
“Policing alone cannot protect vulnerable people and I pledge to continue to work with a wide range of partners across Avon and Somerset to protect those at risk.”
Mr Smith recently hosted an online roundtable event with expert guest speakers to discuss policies on protecting vulnerable people in Avon & Somerset. These included Anna Smith, CEO of One25, Sarah O’Leary, CEO of Next Link, Penny McKissock, CEO of Southside and current independent Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens.
Elections for the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner are being held on Thursday May 6. Mr Smith’s full manifesto can be viewed at https://www.johnsmith4pcc.com/.