What the police commissioner candidates told a public forum

Paul Gleeson (Labour)
Paul Gleeson (Labour)
4
Have your say

One of the candidates to become Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has come under fire over his stance on drugs and the backers of his campaign.

Mervyn Barrett, an independent candidate in next month’s election, faced questions about his plan to regulate and control drug production and supply in the county during a Question Time event in Boston on Thursday.

David Bowles (Independent)

David Bowles (Independent)

His support for making cannabis available in pubs and Dutch-style coffee shops to control drugs supply was called “sheer lunacy” by rival candidate David Bowles.

Mr Barrett was also on the defensive over refusing to confirm who was funding his campaign, promising only to say so “when the time comes.”

He was among five PCC candidates to face questions from residents who will vote on November 15 for someone to take overall charge of policing in Lincolnshire.

The others were Conservative Richard Davies, Labour candidate Paul Gleeson and independents Alan Hardwick and Mr Bowles, while English Democrat candidate Elliot Fountain did not attend.

Alan Hardwick (Independent)

Alan Hardwick (Independent)

The two-hour event included questions on a range of issues from on-street drinking and police budgets to each candidate’s qualifications for the role.

Mr Bowles said he would use his “many years” of working within the criminal justice system to protect victims of crime and put more police officers on the streets.

“Lincolnshire Police faces huge budget cuts and I will fight to get our fair share from the Government and protect our police from the cuts that are coming,” Mr Bowles said.

Mr Davies said his “ideals” as Commissioner would include better use of the county’s 1,100 police officers and greater emphasis on crime prevention instead of detection.

Mervyn Barrett (Independent)

Mervyn Barrett (Independent)

He added: “Only 30 per cent of Lincolnshire’s police officers are on duty night when 75 per cent of the crime occurs.

“Greater police visibility is the answer and we need to focus more on real crime prevention rather than solving 
crime.”

Mr Gleeson pledged to reconnect the police with the communities they serve and give young people a greater say in policing issues.

He said: “We’ve allowed the police to become something separate from us and they shouldn’t be.”

Richard Davies (Conservative)

Richard Davies (Conservative)

Mr Hardwick promised to communicate and consult with Lincolnshire residents and recruit more Police Community Support Officers.

DRUGS: Drugs and their role in causing crime in Lincolnshire was a hot issue for all five candidates at the question time event.

All of them supported early intervention and education about the dangers of drug use, but Mervyn Barrett’s idea to replace existing drug enforcement measures with a control-and-regulate approach, where cannabis could be sold in pubs, was attacked by his rivals.

Mr Barrett said: “We’ve lost the war on drugs and millions of people are taking cannabis and other drugs for recreational purposes. Police forces are spending huge amounts of time dealing with these individuals at the expense of other problems we’re having in our communities.

“If we had regulation and control of the drugs trade, it would take the business of drugs out of the hands of the drug barons and that money will then go to the Government.”

But fellow candidate David Bowles said it would create “drugs tourism” and make Lincolnshire a “magnet for drug sellers across Europe.”

He added: “I find it an incredible suggestion that some of our pubs should sell cannabis and it’s sheer lunacy in my opinion. I do believe that we’ve lost the drugs war, but I don’t think we should give in like the Dutch have.”

All the candidates backed a zero-tolerance policy towards on-street drinking in Lincolnshire - but offered different ways to achieve it.

Labour PCC contender Paul Gleeson said communities needed to work with the police to see improvements, while Conservative Richard Davies called for better enforcement of existing powers to stop alcohol being drunk in town and city centres.

Mr Davies said: “You see groups of 20 or 30 young men drinking on the streets and they look quite intimidating.

“But it’s not right that the people of Lincolnshire are intimidated and if we have police officers on the streets, we can stop this type of behaviour which is unacceptable.”

But Mr Gleeson said: “The power of the Commissioner will lie in working with communities to put pressure on the police to deal with the on-street drinking problem.

“When communities start working together, we’ll see improvements or else we’ll be ignored.”

Independent Alan Hardwick said he would push for an outright ban on street drinking but could not say how long it would take.

ON-STREET DRINKING: All the candidates backed a zero-tolerance policy towards on-street drinking in Lincolnshire - but offered different ways to achieve it.

Labour PCC contender Paul Gleeson said communities needed to work with the police to see improvements, while Conservative Richard Davies called for better enforcement of existing powers to stop alcohol being drunk in town and city centres.

Mr Davies said: “You see groups of 20 or 30 young men drinking on the streets and they look quite intimidating.

“But it’s not right that the people of Lincolnshire are intimidated and if we have police officers on the streets, we can stop this type of behaviour which is unacceptable.”

But Mr Gleeson said: “The power of the Commissioner will lie in working with communities to put pressure on the police to deal with the on-street drinking problem.

“When communities start working together, we’ll see improvements or else we’ll be ignored.”

Independent Alan Hardwick said he would push for an outright ban on street drinking but could not say how long it would take.

FUNDING: Cash for Lincolnshire Police and the candidates’ own campaigns came under the spotlight as residents posed questions about how independent the PCC would be.

All the candidates promised to fight for more money from Government to fund Lincolnshire, but Mervyn Barrett was the only one to admit the chances of extra cash were slim.

But he was put under pressure by residents at the meeting to come clean on who was bankrolling his campaign.

Mr Barrett said: “I have a professional, well-funded campaign and my supporters are backing me because they believe in 
me.

“When the time comes, I will be completely open in disclosing full information about my funding, income and expenditure in line with Electoral Commission rules.

“I’m not for sale and if anybody thinks I am for sale, that says more about them than it does about me and my integrity.”

In contrast, independent candidates David Bowles and Alan Hardwick said their campaigns were self-funded and both promised to be open about those supporting them.

Mr Hardwick said: “To stand as an independent candidate, I’ve had to pay a £5,000 deposit up front and collect 100 signatories like the others.

“The Government declared that it didn’t want to make the PCC role a political appointment, so I wonder why it skewed the elections so heavily against independents.”