PROFILE: Sue Mountstevens - Policing without the party politics
On November 15, the people of former Avon and Somerset will vote for their first ever Police and Crime Commissioner. In the first of four profiles on the election hopefuls, crime correspondent Daniel Evans talks to Independent candidate Sue Mountstevens.
Name: Sue Mountstevens
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Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Home: Lives in North Somerset, near Pill
Family: Three adult children
Why are you standing to be elected the Police and Crime Commissioner?
Only I have the experience, the commitment and the freedom to deliver the right policing for you and your families. I feel passionate about protecting the police and residents from party politics.
Policing is a tough enough job, without it being kicked about like a political football. There is no political party from London telling me what our priorities should be. It is for you, the resident, to make that decision.
If elected, what would your main priorities be?
My main priority is to reduce crime, particularly anti-social behaviour, burglary and violent crimes against women and girls.
I have attended many residents' meetings and neighbourhood forums and anti-social behaviour always crops up. The key is to work with partner agencies and provide intervention and diversion for the potential offenders.
I will be a fierce advocate for victims and will work with all agencies to provide support, making victim-focussed policing a reality.
I will aim to reduce the amount of burglaries and increase detection rates. I want to give people confidence, especially when they are in their own home. If you don't feel safe in your own home you're not going to feel safe in other aspects of your life.
I will listen to residents' needs and ensure that they are heard at every level within the police. If I am elected on November 15, I will spend one day a week 'out on the patch', listening to and engaging with residents and voluntary organisations, so I can hear first hand what is happening on the ground.
Last year, only eight per cent of victims of rape and sexual assault are thought to have reported it to the police because of the nature of the crime. That is not good enough.
A quarter of all reported crimes involve domestic violence so there's a lot of work that we can do to support victims, working with voluntary organisations like Bristol Rape Crisis, The Bridge and the excellent work of the Independent Sexual Violence Advocates.
What experience do you have, professional or otherwise, to bring to the role?
I have been a magistrate in Bristol for 15 years, chairing the bench on adult, youth and family cases.
I was an independent member of Avon and Somerset police authority for two years and vice chair of the Independent Monitoring Board at Bristol Prison for four years.
I was a director of the family business, Mountstevens bakeries, for more than 20 years. At its peak, we had 93 shops and employed more than 1,300 people. Therefore, I know what it's like to run a large and complex organisation.
I thoroughly understand the criminal justice system. During my time on the police authority, I've learned how to challenge and question aspects of policing, but obviously to listen. At the end of the day, the PCC has got to make decisions and I would do that.
How would you ensure crime continues to fall in Avon and Somerset, given the climate of current and future budget cuts?
The constabulary has made great strides to reduce recorded crimes by a third in the last five or six years, while detection rates have doubled.
I will support the Chief Constable and neighbourhood policing teams by making officers and PCSOs more visible. They have a crucial role within the community and by embracing technology – such as computers in cars, mobile fingerprinting and facial recognition – we can free up more time for them to be out on the beat.
We've just got to work smarter. New technology will not replace the police, it will reduce their paperwork. When they are arrested, I will also ensure that offenders are dealt with robustly through the legal system.
I will support the Chief Constable in making sure he has the resources to deploy in the vital areas and I will work with the police and local partners such as Safer Bristol and the Impact (the integrated offender management team in Bristol) to fight crime and focus on persistent offenders so that your homes and streets are safer. It is important that residents have confidence in the police because the police can do nothing without the support of the communities.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary gets at least £20 million less in Government funding every year than its assessed need. What would you do about that and potential future funding cuts?
None of the three main political parties have managed to redress the balance for Avon and Somerset during their tenures in Government.
If we can get that money back, it will make a big difference.
By having a bigger profile as a police commissioner, and as an independent, I can harangue the ministers and MPs of all political flavours about it.
I can promise to work long and hard to balance the budget, but I cannot promise more money every year, because it is likely that there will be less.
But I will never forget that it is your money and will ensure every pound is spent efficiently, effectively and wisely.
The community safety budgets currently controlled by councils will be allocated by the commissioner. What would you spend the community safety budget on?
Former Avon and Somerset is a diverse area and in the same way that flexibility in the police is crucial, so it is for victims and witnesses. One size does not fit all, and we need to ensure that victims and witnesses wherever they live get an excellent service of support.
I will support existing and new organisations across the area, once they can prove that they will be able to deliver excellent service and build on the success that Avon and Somerset police have achieved in being ranked 7th nationally in terms of victim satisfaction."
For more information about Sue's campaign, visit www.suemountstevens.co.uk or www.choosemypcc.org.uk.