Confidence in the Police

Crime is falling – both recorded and from the National Crime Survey – but for many they still can’t trust the Police. At community meetings Stop and Search is causing real understandable angst.

A 2013 commission found that black people were six times more likely to be stopped and search than white people, and in some areas this was as high as 29 times more likely.. No wonder for a large proportion of our community the Police are an annoyance rather than the sign of crime busters.

Some years ago locally we funded hand held metal detectors for our Safer Neighbourhood Team Police in East Dulwich. It means patting down isn’t quite so intrusive for people being searched and gives warning of metal objects such as needles for Police officers. We’ve been talking to local officers about how we can help them get body cameras.

So I’m delighted that Lib Dems have committed to making body cameras mandatory for all Police officers in ‘Section 60’ stop and search areas, officers carrying firearms and officers in Territorial Support Groups. But ideally all Police and enforcement officers would wear body cams as a matter of course.

Body cams mean that people interacting with the Police are assured everything is recorded and for the Police it gives evidence to refute any unfounded accusations. They’re a win win for everyone. The Met Police have started to trial their use – but this needs to be accelerated and made countrywide as a minimum standard.

Do you agree?

 

Drugs Reform – Long Overdue

The Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed that the Liberal Democrat manifesto will contain the most far-reaching drug reform policies ever put forward by a major political party. At long last.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg made the commitment at an event alongside entrepreneur Richard Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

The manifesto will include commitments to:

Adopt the approach used in Portugal, where those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use are diverted into treatment, education or civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record.

Legislate to end the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use, diverting resources towards tackling organised drug crime instead, as a first step towards reforming the system.

Continue to apply severe penalties to those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs, and clamp down on those who produce and sell unregulated chemical highs.

Establish a review to assess the effectiveness of the cannabis legalisation experiments in the United States and Uruguay, in relation to public health and criminal activity.

Legislate to make the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs independent in setting the classification of drugs, while remaining accountable to Parliament and the wider public.

Enable doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use.

Put the Department of Health rather than the Home Office in charge of drug policy.

I am anti-drugs, but as a society we have a responsibility to look at the evidence of what actually works to reduce drug harm.

At the moment, the level of harm to individuals and communities – here and around the world – is still unacceptably high. We need to practically solve this problem. So, if you’re anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform like me. Brave political leadership to openly acknowledge that new ways of controlling illegal drug markets and discouraging use are required.

We need to accept the overwhelming evidence that things are not working, the war on drugs has been a failure, that politicians are letting down the victims of the drugs trade by failing to engage with the evidence.

Talking tough while acting weak may be tempting, but it no longer fools anyone. It is time to commit to a radically smarter approach to tackle this problem head-on.

Reduce The Strength

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Some UK councils led by Ipswich and then Portsmouth have introduced Reduce The Strength campaigns to reduce alcohol misuse. In Portsmouth alone they’ve calculated alcohol abuse costs £74m annually across the NHS, Police, criminal justice system and council alone. In Ipswich they report a 31% drop in crime.

The idea of Reducing The Strength is to ask off-licences to volunteer to NOT sell beer or cider over 6.5% proof. Shops supporting the scheme are given a sticker to show how responsible they’re being for their local community.

One shop owner said “when we stopped selling high-strength lager there was an immediate change, and the staff say they now feel a lot safer”. As of last summer over 40 councils have introduced this scheme.

One street in Portsmouth has seen a 50% reduction in violent crime.

Do you think such a scheme should be introduced in Lambeth and/or Southwark ?

Metal Theft Plummets

Just over three years ago I urged people to sign a petition supporting a bill to licence all Scrap Metal Dealers. Thank you to those who helped push for this change.

The Act was passed with support from the government and came into force October 2013. All scrap metal dealers had to obtain a licence from local council to trade. Near 8,000 have been issued across England & Wales.

Already a dramatic reduction in metal thefts down from 59,788 2012/13 to 40,680 in 2013/14. As the new system settles down I expect the level of theft to decline further. WELL DONE to those who made it possible.

If you have metal that could be stolen – please do also consider property marking it. Either SelectaDNA or Smartwater. Please do make it even harder for thieves.

Bike Hangers Coming To East Dulwich

2013/14 several East Dulwich residents applied for Cleaner, greener, Safer Capital funding for secure Bike Hangers cycle parking in East Dulwich. An initiative pushed by Southwark Cyclists and one I whole heartedly support. Each hanger can store up to 6 adult bicycles taking the space of less than one car space. Ideal for streets with flats and people have little or no space to park a bicycle securely.

Bikehanger

 

 

 

 

 

Several were approved for funding – 30 Heber Road, 24 Matham Grove, 50 Ulverscroft Road.

Shortly residents are going to be consulted about them being deployed outside the homes of the applicants. I’ve asked that the Matham Grove one be moved from being proposed outside no.24 when the applicant lives at no.26. But apart from that I hope residents will fully support this cycle parking.

What do you think – for or against please let me know cllrjamesbarber@gmail.com and the relevant officer chris.durban@southwark.gov.uk ?

Would you like one outside your home to making owning and riding your bicycle easier?

 

 

 

HSBC Organised Tax Crime

Thanks goodness for Herve Falciani . If it wasn’t for him in 2008 whisking away 106,000 records of illegal tax evasion that via the French authorities reached the UK government in 2010 we wouldn’t know of the degree this British bank colluded with tax evasion by British citizens. But Herver also tried engaging the UK Tax people in 2008 but was blanked.

But what of the others banks who Herve is clear are just as involved in this industrial scale tax evasion?

The Swiss authorities keep trying to extradite Mr.Falciani for whistleblowing. Clearly they want to collude with illegal tax evasion. What disreputable behaviour for a nation state.

As the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has pointed out the HSBC scandal demonstrated that tax avoidance was a “sophisticated global business”.

Adding: “Tax evasion is illegal, the full force of the law needs to be brought against tax evaders. Tax avoidance, where people do everything to avoid paying their tax, is something a lot of people rightly don’t like. We made 40 changes to the tax code, we’ve put a billion pounds extra in to enforcement, we’ve recouped £80bn of tax.”

Personally it comes across as a sophisticated global racket. This is organised crime.

1,100 Brits have now paid £135million in tax, interest on tax and fines.

We should go further. Their names should be published. Who are these people?They are clearly not fit to be company directors and should be banned from such roles. If they have gongs they should be striped of them. Tax evasion on this scale is the behaviour of organised criminals. They are not Robin Hoods. They have behaved as common criminals and should be treated as such by our society.

But I fear it will all be swiftly forgotten. The super-rich will close ranks. They will remake their money circulating in our societies upper echelons. Depressing.

The Government has the powers to prosecute and make examples. The state can remove gongs. Directors can be banned for their cmpanies not paying correct tax. But all this should have started in 2008 when the UK tax people were first alerted.

East Dulwich New Capital Projects

2002 Southwark Lib Dems initiated the Cleaner, Greener, Safer programme where each ward in Southwark gets a pot of capital money to allocate to new projects.

Last night we decided which projects to support in East Dulwich ward – ED CGS 15_16

Safer: Fencing between Dulwich library and St.Thomas Moore RC Church, Library Annexe opened as new space for Police surgeries and the like, More Crime Prevention, Norcroft Gardens fencing and lgihting.

Cleaner: Friern Road estate play area renewal, Goose Green School entrance, East Dulwich Community Centre new flooring.

Greener: Lots more trees locally, Physic GardenHeber School Upcycle Garden.

Our next funding decision will be our £25,000 of revenue funding in March. If you have any ideas to make the area better please let us know.

Labour Blair Gaddafi Collusion

Shocking to read that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour government colluded with the Colonel Gaddafi government.

The Guardian reports that Libyan Intelligence agents were allowed to operate in the UK. That a number of exchanges took place and close working. That rendition and torture resulted.

The people who suffered this are suing UK government departments – MI5/6, Home and Foreign Offices. An attempt to have the case thrown out failed on Thursday.

Truly shocking that a UK government could stoop so low.

 

Medicalise Drug Users

Britain has a long history of criminalising drug use. The war on drugs is a well documented failure. It has created a huge criminal community where the profits are so huge that violence to maintain them takes place.

A new Home Office report comparing the UK’s approach to drug misuse with that of 13 other countries concluded that drug use was influenced by factors “more complex and nuanced than legislation and enforcement alone”. It then explains that Portugal where drug users are treated as a health problem has seen a considerable improvement in drug user health. Portugal has taken this approach since 2001. So it’s well established. For Portugal decriminalistion has clearly worked saving many many lives.

The report also believes there is “no obvious” link between tough laws and levels of illegal drug use. That’s a pretty damning indictment of a huge anti drug user industry we have in Britain. This means we have a huge misallocation of precious national resources. Wasting billions of £’s each year which means we don’t have nearly enough cash to help drug users get better and kick addictions. The only people to benefit from the war on drugs are drug barons making huge illegal profits. We need to concentrate on those Mr.Bigs.

I’m proud that Lib Dem Home Office minister Norman Baker said the report, comparing the UK with other countries, should end “mindless rhetoric” on drugs policy. He made it clear the Tories have been suppressing this report for months.

We need a grown up policy about drug taking. One that is based on real evidence rather than hysteria. One that will help our country be better.