Went for a walkabout with Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore earlier around the Maple Park/Jubilee Park area.
Clearly the area still has its challenges and I’m glad the Police are keeping a close eye on it but I do think things have improved since the first time I visited it a few years ago. To be frank, I found it to be arguably the most sinister area I’d visited in Town.
Recently Tim led a bid alongside the Borough Council to secure money from Government (and was successful in securing £400,000) to invest in the area to fund more work to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour problems. I’m confident this will make a difference.
I visited about 6 months ago or so and was pleased to see the new play equipment being widely used but shared many residents concerns about the amount of litter. I wrote to the Borough Council at the time asking for them to take action and today I was pleased to see there wasn’t the same amount of litter than there was the last time I visited.
There must be no “no go areas” in our Town. Everyone deserves to live in a neighbourhood where they feel safe and secure.
Every illegal immigrant that comes over to the UK and remains illegally, sends out the message to others considering doing this that it’s worth the risk. It also fuels a trade that endangers human lives and feeds an evil trade that often results in tragedy. With many claiming to come from war-torn areas, but not stopping in other safe countries like France, it limits our ability to show compassion to those who legally want to come over here and make a life in this country.
I was proud to have led an Adjournment debate on the life of Richard Day and on calling for a tougher and stronger Criminal Justice System. I wanted to ensure that the memory of Richard Day, who was killed last year by Andrea Cristea, lives on. The death of Richard shook the whole of Ipswich and has had a devastating impact on his family. I paid tribute on the House’s written record Hansard, to how kind and generous Richard was and what an asset to his job and community he had been. I explained how integral he was to his family, caring for his mother and supporting his three brothers whenever he could.
I also wanted to point out how pitiful the sentence of Cristea is and that in the opinion of everyone I have spoken to about this, it does not give the family, or Ipswich, the sense that justice has been served. I wanted to highlight to the Minister how sentences like this do not send a clear message of deterrence or prevent individuals like Cristea from setting foot in Ipswich again. I welcomed the news that some reform for murder was being introduced, using a ‘sliding-scale’ to prevent an unreasonable shift in sentences between 17 and 18 year olds but I am keen to see this applies to manslaughter as well as murder. I also wanted to explore the possibility that should Cristea not be a British national, deportation must be considered to prevent the possibility of another attack by Cristea on British soil.
I was then very encouraged by the Minister’s response. He assured me that he would take a serious look into extending this ‘sliding scale’ to incorporate manslaughter as well as murder, and that by bringing this case to his attention, he believes that there is evidence for why this should certainly be considered. He also reassured me that should Andrea not be a British national, his deportation will definitely be considered due to the length of his sentence. I welcome this news and will be monitoring closely these developments.
I hope that in strengthening the law to protect us from individuals like Cristea, we can do justice to Richard’s memory and ensure families like Richard’s do not have to go through this ordeal again.
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.
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.
I was glad to be invited to attend a meeting of the IP3 Good Neighbourhood Scheme (“IP3”) yesterday evening to say a few words and hear about the work that they have been doing to benefit the local community.
The group covers a big chunk of the Southeast of Town in Holywells, Gainsborough, Priory Heath, and some of Bixley and during what has been a really tough year they have stepped up to support the area. They have been handing out food parcels, collecting prescriptions, and talking to vulnerable people on the telephone. They have also done a lot of litter picking!
Last year when the pandemic first hit, I set up a “Talks with Tom” phone line to offer company to vulnerable elderly people who were shielding over the pandemic. I wrote to over 7,000 people over the age of 70 offering my support and I had lots of chats with my elderly constituents.
IP3 are also hoping to run some coffee mornings when restrictions are eased so that people can meet face to face again and socialise to take care of their mental health.
Last May I also shaved my head to raise money for AgeUK Suffolk as they had been struggling to stay afloat with a presence in our town. I managed to raise around £3,000 but unfortunately, they folded just after the money was raised which was a big shame. At the time I was very concerned that there would be a deficit for the services that they provided in Ipswich but local community organisations really stepped up to fill in where there was need and IP3 is a fantastic example of this.
I am really grateful to the huge group of volunteers they have assembled to help the most vulnerable and I think it is great that they are now seeking charitable status which will make fundraising much easier for them. I am very keen to support IP3 in getting this charitable status and in any way I can to help them to keep improving the local community.