Wednesday, 21 December 2016

End the uncertainty now

Over the years, one of the many issues that constituents have raised with me has been their frustration about the justice system’s seeming inability to bring to account those foreign criminals who hide in this country and British criminals who have fled overseas to avoid justice.

When you look back over parliamentary debates about this issue, you find that the loudest voices (across the political spectrum) have regularly been from those who point to unfairness compared to, or a lack of consistency with, UK law which, by facilitating extradition, would result in some injustice to the individual. However, the failure to act has led to many injustices with criminals escaping scot-free.
Measures to try to harmonise extradition procedures across Europe started in the mid-1990s. The 2001 September 11th attacks provided some impetus for change. The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was finally implemented in 2004, with more states joining the arrangements since then.

The EAW is now seen as absolutely vital for ensuring fast and effective cross-border crime and justice measures. Since 2004, the EAW has meant that more than 7,000 people have been extradited from the UK to face trial or serve a sentence abroad; it has also resulted in more than 1,000 people being returned to the UK to face justice.

An excellent example of the success of the EAW was in apprehending and bringing to justice Sheffield criminal Craig Allen, who was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for supplying Class A drugs in the UK – bringing death and destruction to many local communities – but orchestrating the criminality from Thailand and Holland. Allen was the first fugitive to be captured abroad after the launch of the National Crime Agency.

Without EAW it could take years to extradite dangerous criminals to and from Europe. However, the Government have given no commitment on their plans for crime and justice measures post Brexit.  

It’s nonsense to suggest that a continuing commitment to the EAW or membership of Europol should be part of the Brexit negotiations.

My constituents want criminals to be brought to justice. It’s time to end the uncertainty now.

No room at the inn

Many parents and grand-parents will have gone to their local school, church or community hall during the last week to see their children take part in Nativity performances.

The Christmas story evokes thoughts about the need for children to have a safe home, a secure roof over their head and to be given the opportunity to reach their maximum potential.

Anyone seriously concerned about these issues can only be dismayed by the direction of travel in the UK today.
Last week, without publicity, the government published the latest homelessness statistics.

These reveal that the number of children who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation has reached 124,000, compared to 109,000 at the same time last year.

The number of households that have become homeless after an eviction over the last year is up 12% compared to a year ago at 18,820. In addition, the total number of households in temporary accommodation has risen to 74,630, up 9% on a year earlier.

The vast majority of homeless is not a result of fecklessness. What we have seen over the past decade is a massive increase in the private-rented sector, fuelled by buy-to-let, with shorthold tenancies and persistent rent increases. Working families, who have just managed to hold on financially, have found themselves priced out of their homes and of the rental market at the end of their tenancies
21,400 homeless households – a 15% rise in the last year – have been sent on forced marches to a different area, away from their jobs, the children’s schools and their families and friends, which is having a devastating effect on family life.

The government’s housing plans are in disarray. The government’s new-build housing promises were being torn up within weeks of them being made. The long-promised housing white paper has been pushed back again into 2017.

We started this century with a decade of falling homelessness and a massive reduction in rough-sleeping. Since 2010, we have seen year-on-year increases. Anyone who says ‘voting doesn’t change anything’ is clearly living in a fact-free world.