As an MP, Martin strongly defended a well-funded local police force, called for smart sentencing and innovative approaches like restorative justice to cut re-offending and involve victims more in the justice process.
There were more than 7,000 recorded crimes in Cheltenham in Martin’s last full year as an MP – still far too many but more than 27% less than in 2010. Domestic burglary, drug offences, bicycle theft, public order offences, possession of weapons offences and vehicle offences were all sharply lower then in Cheltenham than they were in 2010. This is a tribute to Cheltenham people including Neighbourhood Watch volunteers, to Gloucestershire Constabulary‘s effective community policing and preventive work and to innovative projects like the Aston Project and the Halt project who have worked to reduce the risk of offending amongst young people.
Martin criticised Conservatives on the old Police Authority for refusing funding for our police which would have avoided cuts and has welcomed new Police & Crime Commissioner Martin Surl’s more careful approach and backed his successful campaign as an independent candidate in the last PCC election.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has a strong record of community-based policing and effective action against crime – including anti-terrorist arrests like the Gloucester ‘shoe bomber’ Richard Reid and clampdowns on organised crime families. The force’s finest hour was their emergency leadership role during the 2007 floods. Under the last Labour government there was a serious plan to wind up local police forces like ours and set up a centralised south west England police force. Martin was one of many MPs who lobbied strenuously against this plan which was duly dropped as unworkable and unaffordable.
Martin has been a critical friend of the police when necessary, pointing out problems emerging in outlying areas of town like Hatherley and Springbank that needed nipping in the bud. He strongly supported the force’s move towards more community-based policing and also highlighted residents’ and tenants’ concerns about crimes on specific estates around town and the time it sometimes seem to take for the police and other authorities to take action against anti-social behaviour.
Martin has also supported honest sentencing – so that life really means life – and smarter sentencing – leaving proper discretion to juries, judges and magistrates but offering the alternative of ‘restorative justice’ involving victims more in setting the punishment. Gloucestershire is already a leader in this novel approach which promises lower re-offending rates and puts victims at the heart of the justice process.
Martin also supports tough community payback schemes to make community sentences fit the crime and innovative projects like Cheltenham’s Aston Project and Halt project which offer positive alternatives to young people at risk of getting into trouble. Early results suggested they could have a dramatic effect on offending rates.