Eleanor Ann Griffith – Plaid Cymru – North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Election 2021
North.Wales / Wrexham.com and Deeside.com have invited all candidates to take part in a Q&A – below you can read the answers from this candidate unedited:
1 Who are you and what relevant skills do you have for this role?
Ann Griffith, a very ordinary person attempting to do something very extraordinary.
I come from a working class family with its roots firmly in Meirionnydd from a Non – Conformist background. My Taid was a stonemason. My Nain took visitors. Their fathers were gold miners and slate quarrymen. My mother left school at 14 to work in a typing pool. My father left at 16 to go to sea.
Born in Wrexham and grew up in Barmouth. I attended Ysgol Ardudwy Harlech. It would not be allowed today, but I was working from the age of 11 in a traditional guest house. By the time I was in 6th form I was working three jobs, as well as the guest house I worked in an old fashioned shoe shop and in a pub. I did not go to college immediately, choosing instead to work full time behind the bar to save money to go on an adventure to the other side of the world where I worked in a supported living complex and various pubs pulling pints.
On my return a year later, I enrolled at Lanchester Polytechnic Coventry and qualified in 1984 as a Psychiatric Social Worker. To this day I am a Registered Social Worker.
I took a keen interest in forensic psychiatric social work and worked and trained at one of the first Interim Forensic Units based on the outskirts of Warwick. Here I had a case- load which consisted of men and women who had committed the most heinous crimes and were being assessed prior to moving on to Broadmoor or on their way back into the community.
At the earliest opportunity I returned to north Wales and took up a post within the Local Authority as a Community Mental Health Social Worker and became an Approved Social Worker under the Mental Health Act 1982 working on Anglesey.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to try different roles and worked for a time with older people before specialising in child protection and child care. I was promoted to Team Leader and ran an Intake Team in Caernarfon which primarily involved supervising joint child protection investigations with the police.
This led me to the voluntary sector, as a project leader and service manager for NSPCC Cymru. I managed a number of projects which offered a range of services e.g. comprehensive risk assessment, therapeutic work, group work for children who had been sexually abused, the All Wales Bilingual Child Protection Helpline, Schools counselling, Peer support in schools. I chaired Child Protection Conferences and provided a Child Protection Investigation service where independence was required. In addition, I was an accredited trainer in child protection.
As Public Appointee for the Ministry of Justice for ten years I worked for the Office of the Public Guardian supervising Deputies and investigating financial abuse and reporting to the Court of Protection. This work was pursuant of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and involved working with the most vulnerable individuals who had lost their mental capacity and were suffering dementia, brain damage or mental illness.
For many years I ran my own Social Care Consultancy business and offered a range of services. Chairing Child Protection Conferences, Chairing Looked After Children Review Meetings, Auditing in preparation for Inspections e.g. Baby Peter Audit, Interim Operations Manager and Interim Head of Children Service, Business Manager Gwynedd and Fflint and Wrexham Safeguarding Children Boards, Independent Complaints Investigator [NW Panel], Independent Social Worker conducting risk assessments in Family Law cases.
Alongside this I ran my own successful small business, Geco Arian. I sourced fine jewellery from across the world and sold it at galleries and music festivals and house parties. This came to an end in 2008 when I broke my back falling off a horse. I was fortunate and within six months I was skiing.
Making a difference for good has always been important to me. The extent to which I could make a difference was based mainly on one to one therapeutic relationships. Being elected as an Isle of Anglesey County Councillor meant for the first time I was able to influence policy that improved the lives of more people. I was the Shadow Portfolio for Social Services and the Chair of the Planning Committee. I represented Bro Aberffraw ward. I took my role very seriously and conducted my casework diligently. It was in the chamber and in committees in opposition that I honed my scrutiny skills which served me well in the role of Deputy Commissioner. Always well informed, prepared, fair and constructive.
In 2016 I was very proud to be appointed Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner by Arfon Jones. I was in a privileged position to make a positive contribution and influence change. The role required me to share the vision for imaginative, cutting edge, initiatives and use of crime reduction funds. In addition to share all the activities and functions of the PCC in order to promote the delivery of the aims and objectives contained in the Police and Crime Plan. I was in regular contact with North Wales Police senior officers, senior politicians in Welsh Government, HMIC, external stakeholder, community partnerships and the media. I supported the PCC in developing community engagement and constructive partnerships.
I don’t really have time for hobbies. I enjoy meeting friends for walks with the dogs and wild swimming in the summer. Books are a passion and there are usually 3 or 4 on the go at once. During lockdown I have binged on Netflix and particularly enjoyed “The Bridge.” I look forward to once again being able to go to watch live bands play in small venues.
2 Candidates stand giving their plan for policing, but where, and with which communities across North Wales have you consulted with to find out their needs and opinions to form up your plans?
As the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner I was tasked with conducting engagement and consultation across the length and breadth of north Wales. I visited numerous Older People’s Forums in Rhos on Sea, Prestatyn and St Asaph; The Rhyl LGBTQI? Young People’s Support Group; Young People’s Supported Living accommodation in Llandudno, Llangefni and Buckley and Blaenau Ffestiniog; Women’s Aid Colwyn Bay; British Sign Language Association Colwyn Bay; Merched y Wawr Chwilog, Mochdre, Rhuthun; Men’s Shed Rhyl. This list is not exhaustive. I was instrumental in setting up the Youth Commission which consulted with over a 1000 young people from all over the region as to what crime issues were important to them.
3 What will you do to improve transparency of the PCC’s role and work, and inform and update the public on your performance?
In a large organisation such as North Wales Police there will be errors from time to time. I believe that the best policy is always to be honest and open and not to shy away from the truth however unpalatable it may be. Arfon Jones adopted this approach and because of this has been commended by Policing Insight and awarded the National Openness and Transparency Award.
I shall use the regular channels to do this, namely annual reports, written and verbal reports to the Police and Crime Panel, use of the PCC official web site and social media.
Once the Covid restrictions are lifted I shall look forward to getting out and about and meeting people, discussing ideas, progress and challenges.
4 What is the main thing you would change in the current police and crime plan, and why?
The pandemic has led to unprecedented demands on the Force and its partners in criminal justice and community safety. We are not out of the woods yet. A new broom at this time would be unhelpful. What is required is a period of calm and stability and time to take stock and not rush into knee jerk reactions for the sake of populism.
I know that the current Police and Crime Plan is robust and based on sound consultation with diverse communities across north Wales including the youth commission and with experts in the policing and crime field e.g. Chief Constable, National Police Chief’s Council, HMIC reports, the College of Policing and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.
If I am elected I shall meet my statutory duty and publish my Police and Crime Plan within 12 months of being in post.
5 What is your plan to prevent young people becoming involved in crime?
My plan is to develop closer partnerships with public sector organisations, the voluntary and private sector to deliver innovative Early Intervention to build resilience in children and young people and their parents to mitigate the harm done by Adverse Childhood Experiences.
“It is easier to build strong children than repair broken adults” I am committed to developing innovative sustainable multi agency working to prevent children in crisis turning to crime.
I am very keen to explore joint initiatives with the youth work sector as I firmly believe that to safeguard children from criminal and sexual exploitation they need guidance, opportunities and a strong sense of belonging.
6 Other than drugs, what are the most problematic crimes in North Wales, what are you planning on doing about it, and how will you work with law enforcement to tackle it?
Coercive Control, Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Sexual violence and Femicide is by far the biggest and worse problem facing us all. It should be treated as a public health disaster.
If elected I will be working with Welsh Government, the Force and other statutory and voluntary partners to ensure that the public are aware of the safeguards and that the legislation and guidance is properly implemented i.e.
- The Violence against Women Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence [Wales Act 2015] requires for national and local strategies to deal with interfamilial abuse and violence.
- The Protections of Freedom Act 2012 with regards to Stalking and Harassment.
- The Serious Crime Act 2015 with regards to controlling and coercive behaviour.
If elected I will be scrutinising the Force and criminal justice and community partnerships against their application of the above legislation.
7 How will you hold law enforcement accountable, and how will you measure it?
The Strategic Executive Board is the place to hold the Chief Constable and his Senior Management Team to account. This is where preparation is key, that every report has been read and understood.
Also at the Criminal Justice Board and combined Integrated Offender Management Board.
I do not hold with gimmicky targets and prefer to really delve deep into the substance and quality of intervention and outputs in order to learn lessons and improve.
8 Do you have a view on the current police precept level, and what you would intend to do?
It should be noted that North Wales Police plans to increase police officer numbers over the medium-term as part of Operation Uplift2. The PCC has been briefed by Senior Officers in relation to the steps being taken to ensure appropriate resources are available to meet organisational needs in response to the COVID 19 outbreak. The recruitment pipeline has been prioritised and protected to ensure that North Wales Police are able to safely deliver their Operation Uplift plans, while observing the principles of social distancing. Plans to deliver growth in key areas as agreed via the Priority Resource Planning process are being prioritised. This is being governed by the Strategic Resourcing Group chaired by the Deputy Chief Constable.
9 What scope do you think the “and crime” element of the role provides? What influence do you expect to exert on justice policy beyond policing, with prisons, probation and the courts for example.
Policing and Crime are symbiotic and as such I do not separate one from the other. It is via the Criminal Justice Board that I will hold the criminal justice partners to account against the Police and Crime Plan.
10 You are a ‘continuity’ candidate, do you agree with the idea your predecessor had around ‘fix rooms’, and if so where should they be located?
Absolutely, I am of the same view as Arfon Jones that an enlightened and compassionate approach to drug taking is the way forward if we are to reduce harm, save lives, provide hope and help to enable people to contribute positively to society and turn people’s lives away from crime. Addiction should be viewed as a public health issue not a criminal issue.
Nobody intends to become addicted to drugs. I am convinced that if there were safe drug consumption facilities or Safe Injection Facilities [SIFs] where users could go to inject, snort or smoke their drug of choice under medical supervision that we would see positive results. If SIFs were co located in a one stop shop where help and advice was available to deal with matters e.g. housing, benefits, general health and counselling.
The decision as to where to locate drug consumption rooms would be made in consultation with service users, health, criminal justice partners and the public.
I believe the benefits would out-way the negatives as drug users would have somewhere safe, clean and secure to go rather than having to inject in public toilets, parcs and alleyways where they are derided and considered a nuisance.
I am also aware that there needs to be a drastic improvement and overhaul of the Opioid Substitution Treatment. This type of harm reduction programme offers people who are dependent on heroin an alternative, prescribed methadone, which is swallowed rather than injected. Heroin users tell me that the experience can be a negative one and it must be made more accessible and user friendly to make it a treatment worth going for. I will be very keen to meet with people with lived experience, Health partners and Welsh Government to address this in order to reduce harm and crime associated with street heroin.
11 Adam Price has said two Plaid Cymru PCC’s show a ‘proud record of achievement’, what are two achievements in Wales that would not have been delivered by another party or independent candidate?
Checkpoint Cymru in north Wales is a diversionary scheme which seeks to reduce re-offending and improve life chances by providing a credible alternative to prosecution. This scheme aims to tackle the root causes of offending and offers tailored help and intervention, It’s aim is to reduce re-offending by 20 – 30 %. This scheme is twelve months in and is showing considerable promise already.
12 Plaid Cymru opposed the creation of PCCs but have now fielded candidates twice, why are they now a good idea?
Time has shown that the PCC’s are more effective and efficient and conduct better scrutiny than 17 members of a police authority.
13 Have you ever committed a crime? What happened?
I have received speeding fines and points on two occasions since I passed my test in 1978. I currently have a clean license.
14 Do we currently have any laws you disagree with that you do, or would be prepared to, break?
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is out of date. It criminalises vulnerable drug users which discourages them from getting help for their addictions. It criminalises people who cause no harm to others and who otherwise are law abiding and have a lot to contribute. Criminalising young people often only serves to limit their choices and opportunities for the future.
I am not prepared to break the law as I respect the rule of law which is essential for an open and fair society. Instead, I will join the growing numbers who raise awareness and try to influence law makers.
15 Have you ever taken recreational drugs, and do you think we should treat recreational drug addiction as a criminal or a health problem?
Yes, I have drank alcohol socially since I was 14 or 15 years old. If this should ever become problematic I would expect it to be dealt with as a health issue. Likewise I think problematic drug use should be dealt with as a health issue.
16 The previous PCC appeared unique in the UK to outsource PR, paying a large five figure contract a year. Will you continue that, and are there any other areas of expenditure in the Office of the PCC that you will review?
There is an expectation that residents of north Wales should know who their Police and Crime Commissioner is and that they are aware and and understand what the role involves. It is very important that this is achieved in the most cost effective way. The merits of employing a PR agency has been reviewed and evaluated in terms of cost and benefit. The benefit is significant.
17 At the time of writing where has the top three sources of funding for your campaign come from, and are there any funding sources you feel would be relevant to voters to know about?
My campaign funding source comes primarily from Plaid Cymru Head Office. Plaid Cymru has also paid for my £5000 deposit, which I expect will be fully refunded. The second and third source of funding came from the Gwynedd and Ynys Mon Plaid Cymru Councillor Groups to whom I am very grateful. I pay for my own travel expenses, which because of the distances covered in running my campaign, are not insignificant.
18 In a few lines to wrap this up, why are you the best candidate compared to your competitors?
I am the only candidate who has been the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner. I have the vision and progressive aspiration and the necessary leadership qualities. I have 37 post qualifying years of working professionally with the most vulnerable in our society. I am committed to putting victims at the centre of the criminal justice system and tackling the underlying causes of crime. I am passionate about good and bad policing. To be the Commissioner it is vitally important that I am passionate about both.