“Last night Parliament approved the Coronavirus Bill. It gives the government unprecedented new powers not seen in Britain during peace time. The legislation is absolutely necessary. The Bill permits a rapid expansion of the healthcare workforce and introduces a range of measures to ease the pressure on frontline NHS staff. It provides support for those who lose their employment and safeguards the food supply chain; it also includes a significant strengthening of police powers.
I think it’s important to consider the implications for crime and justice in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR).
The government has made it clear that the measures in the Bill are temporary, proportionate, will only be used when strictly necessary and be in place for long as required to respond to the situation. Whilst this is reassuring, it seems to me that the role of a democratically elected Police and Crime Commissioner is now more important than ever.
People will still be coming to terms with the stringent restrictions placed on their movement and freedom of assembly. It’s fair to say that this is all very different for the police too; but let’s be absolutely clear, the new powers of detention, dispersal and isolation are vital if people continue to flout the instructions. If they prove necessary, they represent a seismic change to the way we prefer to do things in this country and the principles of consent, fairness and social justice must be upheld.
My role is to be the voice of the people and hold the Leicestershire Police to account. My office is responsible for the totality of policing in our diverse community and this function will be maintained for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak and through to the end of my extended term of office in May 2021. We are keeping a close eye on the impact of the disease on crime trends.
I will also do my utmost to ensure that people have continuing access to the services we commission. The personal safety of front-line staff remains paramount, and although services may be delivered differently, our commitment to protect the vulnerable and support victims of crime is undiminished.
My message to the public is a simple one. It’s vital that we follow government advice on social distancing. This means staying away from any pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops that may be foolish enough to stay open; no games in the park and no informal gatherings with friends and neighbours. The police will intervene when necessary to stop these activities. We must do everything we can to reduce the pressure on the force by avoiding ‘101’ calls and using online reporting where possible.
Finally, I want to express my thanks to the police officers and staff who are continuing to provide a great service to the people of LLR in the face of an extraordinary global public health crisis. They are some of the ‘key workers’ who are regularly referred to in the news. They are still out there keeping us safe 24/7 and they deserve our co-operation, our gratitude and our support.”
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 07702 541401
Posted on Thursday 26th March 2020