What the Police Commissioner candidates would do for you if elected
Residents are heading to the polls to vote for the next Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner.
Elections take place on Thursday, May 6 – the same day as local elections – with four candidates in the running for the role.
The candidates are Cara Kim McGuinness (Labour), Duncan Carlyle Crute (Conservative), Peter Maughan (Liberal Democrats); and Dr Julian Kilburn (Independent).
Ms McGuinness is seeking re-election after being elected to the position in 2019.
She has discussed her platform for Northumberland, in particular her rural platform ahead of the election.
“Since I was elected in 2019, we have had quite a focus on trying to improve the reach into rural areas," she said.
"I have spoken to a lot of rural residents who feel quite isolated and quite out there on their own … so you don’t have that normal visibility and that’s obviously a challenge for police to tackle.
She stated her tenure has “made sure there are specialist officers there who understand rural crime, who understand wildlife crime”.
Ms McGuinness pledged to continue her work against domestic violence across the county while acknowledging the added problems of tackling this in a rural setting.
“We know that it is much more difficult to spot it (domestic abuse) in a rural area. It’s more difficult to report it.
“Victims of domestic abuse in rural settings are much less likely to report it and have far fewer places to go.”
She said she is committed to continue “creating safe spaces where people go generally, schools or the hairdressers … where people feel comfortable seeking help”.
Ms McGuinness also stressed the importance of tackling lack of opportunities which may contribute to crime.
“If we want to cut crime in the long run, we have got to understand what causes crime, and there is a relationship between deprivation and crime, lack of opportunities and crime, between lack of services and crime”.
According to Ms McGuinness, the social approach to prevent crime, along with giving police the right resources is “the only sustainable way to do it”.
Ms McGuinness also praised the work of the police in general, saying: “They do an amazing job in what has been an extremely difficult time with a long period of austerity and now a pandemic where the police have had all sorts of additional responsibilities.
“They have stepped up, they have changed the way they work. They have introduced masks and social distancing into a workplace where those things don’t naturally fit in day-to-day policing. But they have done it and done it successfully”.
Conservative candidate Duncan Crute wants “zero tolerance” on all crime across the county, including organised poaching gangs.
He said: “There is a lot of problems with rural crime such as poaching, agricultural, barn and machinery theft, it’s a common thing and a major major issue.”
The PPC hopeful commented on the issue of poaching further saying: “It’s a severe crime. Organised criminal gangs come in selling to crooked hoteliers, restaurateurs the quarry they have got. It’s not somebody thinking I quite fancy that chicken and taking it home to eat. It’s a severe crime and it’s an organised crime.”
In light of these issues, Mr Crute pledges to increase the amount of “police back on the beat” in rural areas.
While not opposed to technological advancements in tackling crime such as police helicopters with CCTV, Mr Crute stressed that “there is nothing like having feet on the ground and getting intel that way”.
The candidate wants closer relationships with rural councillors to better combat rural crime.
“I would like to liaise particularly with the councillors in rural areas who have a real understanding of the subject matter,” he said.
Mr Crute also stressed the importance of tackling low-level crime to prevent larger scale criminality.
“We have got to tackle all aspects of crime and not just focus on bigger boy crime. You nip things in the bud early on, it doesn’t lead to bigger boy crime.
“Crime starts little and grows into something bigger.”
LibDem’s Peter Maughan sees the office as “a farce” and seeks to abolish the role entirely, claiming it is “unnecessary” and a “job for the boys”.
He also claimed that the position of PCC was an “ivory tower”.
Instead, Coun Maughan wants to see the return of more localised police committees headed by local councillors.
“The fact of the matter is if you have a councillor in a village in rural Northumberland, they will know the problems there far better than if you are an overpaid politician sitting in your office in Newcastle,” he said.
When asked why the Liberal Democrats put foward a candidate for the role given the animosity, Coun Maughan said: “You can’t change anything from outside, it’s as simple as that really. The position is there but the major campaign platform is to get rid of it.”
Coun Maughan acknowledged that there is a difference between rural and urban policing and called for “more dedicated officers who are expert in rural policing”.
He said: “If you bring in PC 23 from Newcastle city centre, he is not going to have a clue about farm equipment or what is going on in the rural context.”
The candidate did also acknowledge that money for policing and how it’s spent would be a major issue for any candidate and that “helping to generate the budget is obviously very, very key” for any PCC.
Coun Maughan is also a solicitor who has been “involved in the criminal justice system for 40 years”.
Independent candidate Dr Julian Kilburn wants to restore “hope” to the position.
Dr Kilburn said “the seed was planted” for his candidacy through his exposure to police in his years as a primary and emergency care physician.
He said he was impressed with the officers’ conduct, especially when dealing with people with underlying health conditions, or intoxicated or on drugs.
On rural issues, Dr Kilburn said he wanted to listen to the concerns of rural residents.
The candidate’s website includes a survey in which he asks people their opinion of policing in their local areas and how they feel it could be improved.
Among specific rural issues, he wants to tackle allegations of illegal trail and fox hunting and investigate whether such activities are “not being investigated”.
Dr Kilburn also raised the issue of police officers’ mental health. He feels more can be done to ensure police officers can get the help they may require.
Dr Kilburn also said that “social cohesion” was an important aspect of modern policing.
He commented that although that seems like a “soft” reaction to crime “soft things are hard sometimes”.
This comes after Merseyside chief constable Andy Cooke told the national press that in order to cut crime you need to cut poverty and lack of aspirations among the disadvantaged.