Commissioner Bright’s Priorities: 1. Anti-Social Behaviour 2. Catching Criminals

Monday, November 19th, 2012. 11:57am

Tom Horn of Heart Radio in Cambridgeshire was given one of the first interviews with newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright.

Graham Bright was asked about his priorities. His response was that the first was “anti-social behaviour”, with “catching criminals” only coming in at number two.

Asked: “what are your priorities for Cambridgeshire” Police and Crime Commissioner Bright responded:

My priorities are to address the needs of the people of Cambridgeshire.

Number one from everywhere, and not just as one might suspect, Cambridge and Peterborough, but in the villages, is to address antisocial-behaviour and that covers a whole raft of things … speeding, you name it, parking on footpaths it’s all anti-social behaviour.

We’ll try and address that because people feel threatened by it.

Particularly older people are very concerned; they do get worried about these things.

That is the number one priority.

The next one is to make sure we actually catch criminals.

What Police and Crime Commissioner Bright Means by Anti-Social Behaviour

Many people have tried to pin down Commissioner Bright on what he means by making anti-social behaviour his top priority. This is something I asked him when he invited Cambridge residents to join him for a chat on the Market Square and I went to ask him some questions about his policies. There Mr Bright mentioned “drunkenness” and “drug dealing”.

Now he has told us “you name it” essentially endlessly expanding the definition of “anti-social behaviour” that he is using.

The definition is important as this lets us know what our Commissioner will be asking our police to focus on.

When things like “speeding” and “drug dealing” are included as anti-social behaviour I wonder what, if any, consequence this has for the way these crimes are dealt with by the police. Does it mean that anti-social behaviour laws will be used and perpetrators will not face the courts for example? The police choosing to deal with offences such as speeding outside the usual due process is something I have commented on previously; my view is that motoring offences are best dealt with via proper due-process so those guilty of them risk penalties such as driving bans.

I am also concerned about targeting people who have not done anything illegal, or something that would not be illegal if it wasn’t for our anti-social behaviour laws.

The focus on anti-social behaviour may well put Commissioner Bright into conflict with Chief Constable Parr as Mr Parr has been trying hard not to “do the right thing” in the face of New Labour’s Anti-Social Behaviour laws and avoid unnecessarily criminalising young people.

The “you name it” approach to defining anti-social behaviour may also lead to problems; as many parish councillors, neighbourhood watch members and similar describe youths merely gathering on green spaces or playing football as anti-social behaviour. For examples see:

Levels of Concern

Commenters on Mr Bright’s approach have noted that the current Police and Crime Plan states:

Surveys also show only 1.146 per cent of the county’s population feels there is a high level of anti-social behaviour in their area.

I suspect there may be a difference between what Mr Bright is hearing from elderly people who are involved in neighbourhood watch and parish councils (groups he has mentioned he has been, and intends to keep, focusing on) and the population at large. If Commissioner Bright is to primarily seek to re-present the views he hears to the police then the question of who he listens to, and how, is key. A survey of a rigorously selected representative sample of the population may tell him something quite different to what he has found to-date from talking to his party members and others interested in the election.

See Also

I can only comment on someone else’s interview of Mr Bright because he refused to speak to me. The Heart Radio article on the election result is here.

3 comments/updates on “Commissioner Bright’s Priorities: 1. Anti-Social Behaviour 2. Catching Criminals

  1. Paul Lythgoe

    It was clear before the election that Mr Bright would be out of his depth. I am not clear from what he says that he understands the points you are making with regards to using anti-social behaviour legislation to deal with misdemeanors that are properly covered by other targeted and appropriate legislation. Drug dealing, for instance, may be anti-social but it is clearly proscribed as a criminal act.
    To ask police to prioritise anti-social behaviour and then widen the definition of this to anything that Sir Graham and his elderly contacts are concerned with is to give the police an impossible task that will have wholly negative consequences. It starts with the wholesale criminalisation of youths for being scary and gathering in groups in public places and ends by undermining the basic concepts of consensual policing.
    I think the public in Cambridgeshire owe you a debt for continuing to challenge Sir Graham on this and other issues. Unfortunately our local commercial media prefer to play very safe and do us a disservice by not challenging our local politicians. If you and other bloggers do not do this who will. The manner in which Sir Graham failed to answer your questions will in time be seen by more people and will undermine his credibility and position.
    The debate in Conservative Home on Sir Grahams suitability to become a Lord is instructive on the mixed views held by Conservative supporters on his abilities and merits. We will now see who had the better judgement. Those that recalled his long dutiful service, or those that felt he lacked ability to quote one “He did not make one memorable speech there(parliament) in eighteen years nor was he known for his ability to examine legislation going through the House.”

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Unfortunately our local commercial media prefer to play very safe and do us a disservice by not challenging our local politicians.

      There is an interview by the BBC’s Paul Stainton, a transcript of which is available where tough questions are asked and Commissioner Bright says “don’t know” when asked how he will balance his budget and he is unclear on privatisation to G4S.

      I think the problem generally though is that some professional journalists often feel they have to maintain a good relationship with those in power; and so don’t like to ask too many difficult questions which might upset them. There’s also a question of what the audience wants and is prepared for.

      Even on something like PCSOs (on which Bright has yet to take a view); so many people don’t know about the role of a PCSO and how it differs from a PC or a Special Constable that it perhaps isn’t the kind of thing which can be meaningfully debated on mass-media without taking the time to provide a significant amount of background. I think the broadcast media and the newspapers do to an extent reflect what interests the population and by having a debate in public: online, in public meetings, through councillors etc. as the unanswered questions for Commissioner Bright build up we will see them being put to him.

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