Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blunkett: Tell Us What to Change

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blunkett: Tell Us What to Change

Article excerpt

Home Secretary David Blunkett and his team of Home Office ministers are visiting Tyneside today to take part in a question time session in front of an invited audience.

Mr Blunkett and his team want to hear what people have to say about the impact of Home Office policies on their lives and what they would like to see done.

Here Mr Blunkett writes for The Journal of the importance of getting police officers back on the front line tackling crime, while Sandra and Paul Sawyer explain what they would like to see the Government doing following the death of their six-year-old niece in a hit-and-run accident.

The Sawyer family has been campaigning for a change in the law surrounding dangerous driving since the sentencing last year of Ian Carr, from Ashington, over the death of Rebecca in a road accident on New Year's Eve, 2002.

After Carr, who had a long string of motoring offence and disqualifications, was jailed for nine and a half years, The Journal started a petition calling for a new offence of manslaughter by driving, carrying a life sentence for drivers who kill while drunk, under the influence of drugs, or while disqualified.

Today I am visiting Newcastle with the Home Office Ministerial team and its most senior civil servants.

We will be spending time with residents, the police and a range of other organisations. We want to hear how the major reforms we are making to the criminal justice system are working out, and what else needs to change.

I am impressed by Newcastle and the character, resilience and spirit of regeneration in the city and its people. This was typified by the response of Newcastle-Gateshead to the unsuccessful bid for Capital of Culture status, creating instead the Decade of Culture initiative.

Next year the UK will hold the Presidency of the EU from July to December, during which time I will host a meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers from across the EU. It will be a major event involving up to 500 delegates plus a sizeable media presence. I have decided to hold that event here in the North-East.

Today we expect a challenging day, involving genuine debate about the issues of most concern to local people. One of the most frequent questions I am expecting to hear as I am out and about is how can we get more officers out on our streets, fighting crime and helping people feel safer?

I believe we already have one of the best police services in the world. We have record numbers of police officers and community support officers on the beat. Police numbers in England and Wales have reached an all time high of 138,000, an increase of 11,000 since 1997.

In the North-East there have been increases across all three local forces. In Northumbria there were 4,048 police officers as of December 2003, 72 more than in December 2002. …

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