‘Ridiculous’ to call Tories party of law and order, says Starmer
Labour leader at Elland Road to observe project
LABOUR LEADER Sir Keir Starmer has said it is “ridiculous” to call the Conservatives “the party of law and order” amid rising crime and falling conviction rates.
The Labour leader said his party would put enforcing criminal justice at the centre of its local election campaign and make sure that “people feel safe in their own environment”.
He said the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was a “huge missed opportunity” to “do something profound” about violence against women and girls in the wake of the death of York woman Sarah Everard in London.
Speaking during a visit to Sheffield yesterday Sir Keir said the Tories’ accusation that Labour was “on the side of criminals” by opposing the Bill was “complete rubbish”.
He said: “This comes from a Government that has cut our number of police officers, cut our number of support staff, where crime has gone up, the conviction rate has gone down, it’s just ridiculous to call the Conservative Party the party of law and order.
“When your crime rates are going up and your conviction rates are going down, you have no right to start lecturing other people about criminal justice.”
The politician, who was director of public prosecutions for five years, said: “What I think people want is to feel safe, in their home, in their environment, in their community.
“And when people say to me, as they do, ‘I don’t feel comfortable going out after dark, even in my own area’, then there’s something fundamentally wrong. I was responsible, with the police and prosecutors, for enforcing criminal justice, I know what a difference it makes to our communities, so we, the Labour Party, are saying we’ve got to take this much more seriously.
“Labour are putting it central to our election going into May. We want, not just more police officers on the street, we want neighbourhood officers, we want back-up civilian staff so officers can be on the frontline more of the time, but we also need a law to protect and give better support to victims.
“Violence against women has been much discussed in recent weeks, it’s deeply frustrating because, for a decade of Conservative government, we’ve been promised a victims’ law, we’ve been promised action on violence against women and girls and we’ve had neither of them and we need comprehensive legislation to put in place better support, we need to make sure we take criminal justice and enforcement much more seriously.”
The campaign, launched by Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas Symonds, urged the Government to make policing a priority ahead of local elections.
SIR KEIR Starmer has vowed to return to see the work being done in a project between Leeds United and groups of young people in the city which aims to steer them away from a life of crime.
Sir Keir went to Elland Road to meet coaches and representatives from the club’s official charity, the Leeds United Foundation who are involved with the club’s Positive Choices programme.
It was started during the 2019/20 season as an educational event aimed at secondary schools to engage with hard-to-reach children, with one of the main aims to help reduce violent crime.
He observed workshops and talks and met with people involved in the project, who once found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Mr Starmer said: “It is absolutely fantastic and I pay tribute to all of those involved, many of whom have been through trauma as a victim and on the wrong side of the law talking to young people and I have been inspired by what they do.
“If what they do saves a young person from a life of crime, that benefits the young person and very many victims – the courage it takes to break down barriers and do the work that they are doing.
“What we have seen over the last few years are figures going in the wrong direction. Crime has gone up, particularly violent crime, but people being brought to justice has gone down.”
The Positive Choices scheme usually goes into schools and works with around 1,000 youngsters per year with up to 60 in one single session.
They cover serious topics such as the dangers of knife crime, gang affiliation, negative relationships and child criminal exploitation – and that there is another way and that there are people out there who can support them.
Positive Choices has managed to stay in touch with young people during the lockdown restrictions over the past year by holding virtual sessions, making welfare calls and setting activities such as skills practice to writing letters to friends or relatives who are isolating.
Sir Keir was accompanied on his visit by Tracey Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen and Labour candidate for the 2021 West Yorkshire mayoral election.
The pair also met Sarah Lloyd,
a mother whose 17-year-old son was stabbed to death in their own street in Harehills in 2013. “He was going to the local cafe to buy a breakfast and never came home”, she said.
Ms Lloyd said Keiron had challenging behaviour, was excluded
from school at the age of seven and got in with the wrong crowd, was in the youth offending system by the time he was 12 but “it got worse”.
She said: “It (projects like Positive Changes) did not exist when he was 12.
“This programme could have maybe saved his life, you never know. I don’t live in the what ifs – but it could have made a difference.”
Mr Starmer added: “It is about reducing crime but making better lives and if I had been through that, I don’t think I could have done that.”
His comments came on a day when he also visited Sheffield where he said it was “ridiculous” to call the Conservatives “the party of law and order” amid rising crime and falling conviction rates.
The Labour leader said the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill “was a huge missed opportunity” to do something about violence against women and girls in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death.
He said: “Many, many women and girls have said ‘we don’t feel safe out in the city centres, in the town centres, on the streets, after dark’.”
I pay tribute to all those involved...talking to young people. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.