This week I wrote my weekly column on why we desperately need to start properly assessing prisoners for special educational needs (SEND) when they come into the system.
In the Education Select Committee on Tuesday we were discussing prison education with the heads of a number of charities, and I wanted to ask about SEND. Data reports that 30% of prisoners have learning difficulties. When I asked around the individual witnesses, there was consensus that this figure is a drastic underestimate given that it relies on self-reporting when an offender comes into prison.
I believe we need to do proper assessments to get a much more accurate picture.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, if we have an accurate picture of the numbers of those coming into prison with SEND from early on in their sentence, then we will be able to tailor prison education directly to those offenders throughout their time behind bars. Education in prison is a crucial aspect of the rehabilitation of our prisoners and the goal that when they come out they might contribute to society in more valuable ways than they previously had done. It is therefore very important that we get this right.
Secondly, and what I believe is of the greatest importance, if we get a more accurate depiction of the levels of SEND amongst the prison population, then we might be more fully aware of the implications of the underfunding of SEND in our education system today. Until we get every person tested, then we won’t know the true scale of the problem and how to move forward.
As someone with dyspraxia and dyslexia myself, I know how fortunate I was to have been diagnosed early on at school and get the support I needed to go on and excel in my education. When I was 12 I actually had the reading and writing age of an 8 year old and I myself at that point in my life wasn’t happy with my situation. I was often angry that no one seemed to understand me and couldn’t understand why I was different from my peers and falling behind everyone else.
For people who aren’t diagnosed, the fact that their poor school attainment is often attributed to inattention, distractibility, or laziness can negatively reinforce behaviours and ensure these children are left behind. If someone feels that the system is failing them as an individual then it is not surprising that over time they turn against the system; it is not surprising that there is this link. We desperately need to make sure that this doesn’t continue to happen.
When it comes to providing first class support for SEND, while not everything is about money, making sure we have sufficient resources going in at every stage isn’t just the right thing to do at a moral level, but at a societal level as well. Ultimately it is unmet needs which makes it more likely that these people end up in the criminal justice system. It is not just bad for society, but for the exchequer in the long run as well.
Get it right and you can utilise the talents of unconventional thinkers which is great for our society. Get it wrong and you end up with more people in the criminal justice system.
A few weeks ago, I received a letter from Sammy Steven who is a customer at the Papworth trust on Foundation St in Ipswich, which is a trust which does fantastic work supporting the disabled community in Ipswich and adults with learning disabilities. When the lockdown started, they were very down and didn’t know how they would cope. Because of the exceptional work done by the staff and volunteers they made it work and they created a lockdown journal. They became journalists and wrote about their experiences so they will remember them forevermore and they also tried new things. They became poets and music instructors. I asked Jacob Rees-Mogg if the Government would find time for us to debate in the House of Commons how we fund and how we structure these services to support adults who have got learning disabilities, but also to focus on what they can do positively, not always on what they can’t.
Jacob Rees-Mogg responded by saying that we should always think about what people can do and we should always be positive as a society. He told me that he was glad to hear about the work of the Papworth Trust. He acknowledged that organisations like this are a lifeline of support for some of the most vulnerable in our communities and everything that can be done to support them should be done.
This afternoon I was on TalkRadio to talk about Priti Patel’s New Plan for Immigration. She wants to fix a currently broken system and create a new US-Style Electronic Travel Authorisation which will make the border more secure by automatically checking for criminals from other countries and allowing more accurate statistics. We will know who comes and who goes out. It has been a problem in the past that people have come over here under the auspices of coming on holiday and staying illegally.
The Home Secretary plans to be much tougher on illegal immigration and I very much support her proposals. On the issue of illegal crossings with small boats we also need to send out the message that people coming illegally across the channel cannot stay. As far as I am concerned if you are coming here from a safe country like France, then you are not a refugee. Priti Patel wants to stop the endless cycles of appeals by lawyers introducing asylum claims last minute to clog up our system.
At the end of the day, there is nothing compassionate about fuelling the illegal human trafficking trade by sending out the message that it is worth coming here illegally. Not only this, but you are also limiting our capacity as a country to show compassion towards the most genuine of refugees who are fleeing areas of conflict where they are at risk of persecution. This is why the moral thing is to have strong borders.
This week I have written my weekly column on illegal immigration and on why the views of some prominent members in the SNP and the Labour Party mean they shouldn’t be in power.
The tendency of certain factions in the Labour Party to be weak on illegal immigration was shown last Thursday, when two men were in the process of being deported by the police in Glasgow.
A crowd of activists thronged the police vans and held them in a stand-off until the police were forced to release them from the van. These activists on the ground were joined by a chorus of Labour MPs applauding them on Twitter.
Nadia Whittome MP tweeted: “This is what solidarity looks like. When the Home Office carried out an immigration raid on two Muslim men during Eid the people of Glasgow got their neighbours released.”
This was echoed by Angela Rayner MP, Sir Kier Starmer’s deputy, Zarah Sultana MP and Bell Rebeiro-Addy MP, to name but a few. Each of them mentioned the fact that it was the Muslim festival of Eid. They were also joined by the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, who was the Scottish justice secretary at the time – not company I would like to keep.
Unsurprisingly, these Labour MPs jumping on the activist bandwagon had no idea what they are talking about.
Firstly, Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh, the men being taken away by the Home Office and the police were not Muslim – they were members of the Sikh community. They were from India, a democracy which doesn’t regularly torture or persecute its citizens. Their visas had expired, with at least one having been expired as long ago as 2016.
Secondly, it seems odd to me that activists and MPs are suggesting that we should somehow suspend our laws on illegal immigration when it suits them. We can’t have a bar on applying the law during Muslim holidays, or any other festivals for that matter.
Thirdly, it is clear to me that this stance is not going to be an election winner for the Labour Party. 77% of the public thought that illegal immigration was a serious issue facing the UK in 2018, and 62% of Britons say those arriving illegally via the Channel do not need to claim asylum in Britain and should be sent back. I agree with this. France is a safe country and people crossing from Calais are not escaping persecution. Moreover, encouraging illegal immigration like these Labour and SNP politicians are doing is not compassionate. It encourages vile human traffickers to take advantage of vulnerable people and wastes our resources processing people who should not be here when we should be focussing on people coming from the most dangerous parts of the world and the most horrid persecution.
If only the Labour party chose to actually listen to the people who they are trying to win votes from, they might do better in elections!
Today in Parliament I asked a question to the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees Mogg about tougher sentencing for the most violent criminals. I explained to him the sad case of Richard Day who was killed in Ipswich last year. His killer, Andrea Cristea was found guilty of manslaughter having punched Richard in the neck and kicked him while he was down. As Richard lay dying Andrea was seen standing over the body laughing and he also went though his pockets. He was only sentenced to four years in prison and with automatic halfway release and time spent on remand he will only serve a total of ten months behind bars. This has been a huge blow for Richard’s family and for the whole of Ipswich who have been rightly outraged by both the crime and the sentence. I explained that my constituents are furious that justice has not been done, and there is also a question about the public safety of my constituents if he is back out on the streets of Ipswich. I asked him if the Government would find time for us to debate sentences such as these and what we can do to restore the trust of the British people in our criminal justice system?
Jacob Rees-Mogg addressed the deeply troubling case. He said that the sadness for Mr Day’s family and the burden that they will carry all their lives is one of unimaginable distress. It is hard in these circumstances to go through the reassurances about the Government taking tackling crime seriously, which of course they do. He acknowledged that this is where general national policy meets the individual circumstance, and it is so important that, in the individual circumstance, the right, appropriate and just sentence is passed.
He said that Parliament gives the power to the courts to do this, and the maximum penalty for manslaughter is a life sentence. Ultimately, however there is the problem with Cristea’s age which meant that he was given a much lighter sentence. But I really think that this should be looked at. It makes no sense why a 16 year old should be treated the same as a 12 year old. Ultimately his sentence should have been far far tougher than it was.
Jacob Rees-Mogg acknowledged that we have independent courts, but it would be wrong to pretend that our courts always get the individual judgments right and so it is therefore quite proper for people to seek redress for the grievances of their constituents and to raise these matters in the House so that the judiciary may know what concern there is when light sentences are passed on people who, by a violent murder, have destroyed the happiness of a family.
I have written to the Attorney General in the hope that he will review the sentence handed down to Andrea Cristea and I will continue to raise the matter in the House to see what can be done to get Justice for Richard’s family.
With the permission of the family of Richard Day, who was killed in Ipswich last year, I have written to the Attorney General asking for a review into the sentence of Andrea Cristea, his killer.
As many of you will know, Richard Day was killed in Ipswich in February 2020 from a punch to the neck followed by kicks. Andrea Cristea was seen laughing over Richard Day’s body and rifling through his pockets for money. The account of the killing detailed in the court is sickening. However, Cristea was only sentenced to 4 years in a young offenders institution. He will be let out of prison automatically after two years and has already served 14 months on remand, meaning that he will be behind bars for only 10 months in total.
I don’t believe that this is justice for Richard Day’s family or for the people of Ipswich who were outraged by this heinous crime and, rightly, do not want people like this on our streets. This is why I have asked the Attorney General to review Andrea Cristea’s sentence. It seems wrong that a 17-year-old should be treated the same as a 12-year-old and I believe that more weight should have been placed on the fact that Cristea was a repeat offender. He committed this killing while awaiting trial for something very similar which demonstrates just how unsafe and unremorseful he is. I would like this to count much more strongly against him.
I also believe that the Sentencing Guidelines should allow greater scope for judicial discretion in sentencing in order to take into account the most horrendous aspects of crimes such as in the killing of Richard Day.
I have always said that I have a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to crime and anti-social behaviour in our town. All deserve to get about their business and have fun in our town free from the fear of crime and antisocial behaviour. I also want to push to toughen up sentences to make sure that victims and their families get justice when crimes like this happen.
What a wonderful place the Papworth Trust centre on Foundation Street is. Sammy one of the customers sent me a hand written letter about the Lockdown Journal publication they’ve all worked on detailing their experiences throughout the pandemic.
When the centre wasn’t able to operate normally the staff put in a huge amount of work making sure they could run sessions virtually and they made it work. The Papworth Trust and its staff have been a lifeline of support to some of the most vulnerable within the Town and I couldn’t speak more highly of what they do.
Sammy has actually taken up poetry throughout the lockdown and one of her poems, “A storm is a brewing” was actually published in the “Lockdown Journal”.
Due to the hardwork and dedication of staff and volunteers for many customers the last year will be a time they look back on with some fond memories. What as a very challenging situation for the Trust was confronted and something brilliant came out of it.
They have my full support going forward and I’m going to be in touch with them this week to discuss what more we can do to work together.
This morning I visited Rushmere Hall Primary School to meet Headteacher Paul Fykin. My first visit to the school. I was very pleased to be able to understand more about the support they provide pupils, particularly those with special educational needs. They have a higher than average number of children with education, health and care (EHC) plans and are known for being a mainstream school that provides great support for children with special needs. They also have a very unique unit for those with speech and language difficulties.
Always love visiting Primary schools in Town and seeing so many happy young faces.