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Richmond Park News: 28 January 2021

This week my focus was on policing and crime, which I know is of great concern to my constituents.

On Tuesday I met with Richmond's Metropolitan Police Inspector Jon McLoughlin and Southwest London Borough Commander Lis Chapple to talk about their investigations into local crime and their preventive efforts, including ongoing work in Kew, Richmond, East Sheen and New Malden. Then on Thursday I met the Kingston police team in the town centre to take about public safety in Kingston. They shared a number of initiatives with myself and Ed Davey, the MP for Kingston and Surbiton. I was particularly pleased to hear about the additional patrols going into Canbury Gardens in North Kingston.

I know that my constituents are eager to see more police on our streets and in our communities. I have joined my colleagues in calling for a return to community policing, where officers are visible, trusted and known to local people. So I was sorry to learn this week that the Government has recruited fewer than half of the 4500 additional Metropolitan Police officers they promised London in 2019. I am calling on them to redouble their recruitment and training work to keep this promise.

I am frustrated that Kingston and Richmond’s need for regular policing is often overlooked. So I am fighting to make sure that Richmond and Kingston get their fair share of locally assigned officers and return to full staffing levels.

On the national front, the Government's Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC Bill) is now in its final stages. Throughout the country, including in Richmond Park, police need the officers, resources, and time to focus on preventing and solving crimes. Sadly, the PCSC Bill in its current form is not the answer.

Although there are some measures in this Bill that I support, other measures are extremely disturbing.

The Bill’s measures continue the failed approach of encouraging longer and longer mandatory sentences, despite a lack of evidence that longer sentences actually improve public safety, and despite the high cost to the public purse of keeping prisoners in custody.

Even more concerning is its new protest crackdown laws, giving police new powers to disrupt protests, marches and assemblies, and criminalise their organisers and participants. These new powers pose a significant threat to our human rights obligations and our civil rights, while lacking an evidential basis to justify their introduction.

I also stand with my Liberal Democrat colleagues against plans to allow police to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion” and to give police the power to impose conditions on protest marches. We must particularly protect Parliament Square as a place to protest.

I do not believe the Government is upholding its duty to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in pushing through this legislation.