Pat Astbury – Welsh Conservatives – 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?
I am Pat Astbury and following is a brief resume
Married, 4 children and 7 grandchildren.
Personal Assistant to Director of Education, Clwyd County Council.
Responsibility for day to day running of a very busy office, regularly dealing with national politicians, County or Community Councillors, and the public along with all other departments within the Council. Dealing with complex and often confidential information.
Re-trained and was employed as a member of the Education Social Work Team Clwyd, Flintshire and subsequently Denbighshire. Responsibilities included child protection issues, school attendance, liaising with School nurses or GPs/Social Services/Police and other agencies.
Coleg Llandrillo 14-16 Co-ordinator (part time)
Responsibilities included liaison with schools, careers offices, senior managers within college network. Empowering students to achieve their potential and ensuring that additional support was available when and where appropriate.
Ysgol y Berwyn, Bala Additional Skills Co-ordinator (part time)
Delivering courses to small groups of Year 10 and 11 students on specific subjects eg. Life skills, office skills (including IT) all through the medium of Welsh.
Former Ruthin Town Councillor. Partnership working was a key to successful projects. Mayor of Ruthin Town Council. It was important that all involved in the Town Council should be aware of and adhere to the Nolan Principles of Public Life. My aim was to have a positive, encouraging and respectful relationship with all members of the community, always taking a common sense, dignified approach to any task.
Member of the Choose Life Substance Misuse Programme Board. This is a charity that has its’ roots in HMP Liverpool and uses the experiential expertise of prison staff and inmates in understanding addiction. Former Lay member of Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements ( MAPPA) North Wales. This is where multi-agency public protection arrangements are in place to ensure the successful management of violent and sexual offenders.
Member of former North Wales Courts Board. Scrutinised complex information and data regarding local Magistrates Courts and Crown Court re business plans. Attending meetings organised by Ministry of Justice or when senior Judges or politicians were in North Wales
North Wales Police and Crime Panel
I am Chair of the North Wales Police and Crime Panel. The Panel consists of 10 cross party county councillors and one other co-opted members. As Chair it is important to develop an atmosphere of trust, confidence and transparency between all Panel members, the PCC, OPCC, the community across the region and Chief Constable.
Welsh representative on the National Executive of Police, Fire and Crime Panel.
Governor Ysgol Brynhyfryd, Ruthin and also Rhos Street School.
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?
To date during this campaign I have visited and spoken to many businesses and individuals across North Wales from Holyhead, Bala, Chirk, Wrexham, Rhyl, Ruthin, Deganwy. I intend to visit many other communities before 6th May. Anti social behaviour is one key message, the need for safer roads (anti social driving, speed), cyber crime ie abuse and scams is another great concern and rural crime. I also communicate by having telephone conversations and social media to ascertain what concerns people and where they would like to see improvements or change. Again it proves vital that I can speak to communities in our two primary languages.
I have had discussions with representatives from the Tourism sector. Increased tourism brings challenges in relation to extra traffic, night time economy, and the sheer number of people in the region. All have an impact upon day to day policing.
According to a recent report the tourism trade brings £3.69 billion to the economy in North Wales, 26.4 million day visitors with 10.51 million staying here and 46,000 jobs. All good news but that means additional work for North Wales Police which has to be taken into account by the Chief Constable for operational needs.
3 What will you do to improve transparency of the PCC’s role and work, and inform and update the public on your performance?
I have already pledged to visit every community within the Force area, and as a fluent Welsh speaker, also as a native of Gwynedd – where I still have extended family, I know that this is crucial to the role of PCC. Social media will also play its role in engagement and transparency. A monthly newsletter will also be written and given to the media and on to the OPCC website. Transparency is one of the 7 Nolan Principles of a Public Life. These 7 Principles are pertinent to every one of us in the public sector and what we should be adhering to.
4 What is the main thing you would change in the current police and crime plan, and why?
In the first year, due to timing issues, the current Plan will stay in place.
My manifesto for this election is –
- Shutting down organised crime groups, eg county lines drugs gangs that are preying on young people and devastating communities, human trafficking/modern slavery.
- Deterring antisocial behaviour with more high visibility police patrols.
- Investing in technology and training to enable police officers to tackle online crime.
- Focusing on rural crime, from fly tipping to vehicle and livestock theft.
- Working with local communities to make roads across North Wales safer for everyone.
- Providing support to victims of domestic abuse and coercive behaviour.
The new Plan for 2022 will be considered and commenced upon immediately after taking office and in consultation with the Chief Constable. This will then be presented to the Police and Crime Panel for their scrutiny and ultimately their approval.
5 What is your plan to prevent young people becoming involved in crime?
Preventative work is the key. More prevention means fewer criminals, fewer victims and so more police time. Here is just one example of what can be easily achieved :- for the last 12 years or so I have been organising primary school mock trials. This is an organised and collaborative approach due to my networking with police, magistrates, media, Rotary Clubs and schools over many years. This a successful and effective way of pupils learning about the consequences of crime, how the judicial system works and breaking down barriers between young people, police and justice system. It also gives them an insight into the different roles within a trial and this could lead them to a career within the judicial system in the future. The scripts include road traffic offences, shoplifting, disability hate crimes and with others currently being written for the next tranche of trials.
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?
Anti social behaviour, existence of organised crime gangs coming over the border – mainly from the North West of England and the growing menace and vitriol of online hate abuse and scams.
Rural crime is also problematic with farmers losing too many livestock and machinery. This results in loss of income for them and greater hardship. Theft of pets is another issue for the rural crime team. To combat this I want to look at purchasing new, effective and innovative technology which can assist officers in apprehending the criminals quickly and the evidence gained by the technology will lead to successful sentences in courts.
During the pandemic a growing crime is police officers being spat upon and defiled which can have considerable health risks. There will be no hiding place for this type of crime, welfare of staff is paramount.
7 How will you hold law enforcement accountable, and how will you measure it?
It is incumbent on the PCC to produce regular and comprehensive reports to the Police and Crime Panel. It has to be full, factual and in this regard the PCC is supported by a small team of staff lead by a very experienced and knowledgeable Chief Executive.
Again the open and healthy working relationship is a crucial factor in holding the Chief Constable to account. I refer again to the Nolan Principles – accountability !
The Panel can be very critical (as well as being supportive), they in turn always scrutinise any reports. All reports are in the public domain and Panel meetings are webcast via Conwy Council website for transparency. I would also be referring to this accountability in my monthly newsletters.
I must compliment North Wales Police and police staff on how they have dealt with what has been an extremely testing year. They have delivered their core policing throughout the pandemic whilst dealing with all the issues that COVID has thrown at them.
Over 40 million calls were made to police forces in England and Wales last year resulting in 6 million crimes. Police Control Staff will have taken the majority of those calls.
So whilst looking at accountability I must also look at successes and praise when appropriate.
8 Do you have a view on the current police precept level, and what you would intend to do?
Whereas we all want to see the lowest precept possible, it has to be a balanced decision about the precept level given the operational needs of the force. A healthy working relationship between the PCC, Office of the PCC, Chief Constable and often the Police Federation/Unison is crucial. Open and frank discussions must always take place.
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.
One thing that is clear, having been a member of the North Wales Courts Board, is that the reduction in Courts and therefore court time inevitably means delays in the criminal justice system. This is unacceptable to victims or witnesses, who can suffer stress, anxiety and sometimes harassment during this waiting period.
My involvement with a substance misuse charity which has its’ roots in HMP Liverpool also gave me an insight into life within the prison systems and the daily difficulties faced by prison officers with eg overcrowding, possibly a lack of resources, mental and physical health of prisoners.
It is said by the charity Headway that 60% of prisoners suffer brain injury. If successful in this election It is my intention to link up with Headway’s Justice Project which aims to raise awareness and improve understanding of brain injury in the criminal justice systems around the UK.
A greater understanding of why people commit crime is crucial to the role of PCC. Only by understanding can we hope to work to achieve change. I would also bring on board education providers, such as Pupil Referral Unit staff – they can be new key partners in this respect.
Offender Management/ Probation also have specialisms in this area and their expertise should also be brought to the table. At least monthly discussions with all our MPs in North Wales should be a regular occurrence as they are our daily voice in Westminster. They need to hear from a PCC and Chief Constable what issues are facing our police and subsequently speak on our behalf with the Ministry of Justice and Home Office.
10 Over 20,000 police were lost in the UK during austerity ( https:// www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-are-the-conservatives- putting-20000-police-on-the-streets ) did that help tackle crime in North Wales?
Operation Uplift is balancing that – this year will see an extra 62 officers on the streets of North Wales. As crime and criminality is changing and more and more crime is online – fraud, scams, child abuse etc. A proportion of these officers will be trained in new technology that I want to introduce into the Force.
Far too many people are becoming vulnerable and subsequently victims in this way.
This does not, however, mean that I will not focus on increasing visible community Police. This is the bedrock of British policing !
11 You say you are not afraid of asking difficult questions, what is the toughest question the Chief Constable has to answer right now?
I must state that at the time of writing this can only be answered in a hypothetical way and with no evidence there is an issue with consultants. Re Consultants – I would ask along the lines “where is the evidence that you require their services, why can’t this be done in-house, what savings will they bring to the table, and how will they make policing in North Wales better.
There is always a burning question about budgets and this would have to be asked in conjunction seeing evidence of operational demands etc. but bearing in mind that the role of the PCC is non-operational!
12 What are your views on the UK Government’s, and your party’s current policing bill, and specifically the elements about restricting protests?
The lengthy Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that is currently going through Parliament is intended to make our country safer. These are the headings in the Bill – Protecting the Police and Emergency Workers, Serious Violence Duty, Positions of Trust, Public Order, Criminal Damage to Memorials
This Bill will do that by equipping our police officers with the powers and tools they need to keep themselves and all of us safe and cutting crime. It puts the Police Covenant into law, doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting workers in emergency services. It also ensures that our Special Constables – who donate 55,000 hours of volunteering to North
Wales Police Force – will have the same support and representation as regular constables enabling them to join the Police Federation.
Tackling unauthorised traveller encampments; requiring schools, police, councils and health authorities to work together.
The important review of the law under the Positions of Trust protecting our children and young people in vulnerable positions.
On the issue of protests. The current law doesn’t allow the courts to deal effectively with the damage or desecration of memorials, for example, during protests.
If this keeps all those people who are protesting peacefully and legally safer then I cannot but support the Bill.
13 Have you ever committed a crime? What happened?
I have had a couple of speeding tickets, many years ago though. Other than that absolutely nothing.
14 Do we currently have any laws you disagree with that you do, or would be prepared to, break?
No I am not prepared to break any laws. This would not be compatible with the role of PCC nor my own moral code/integrity. Integrity is another of the 7 Nolan Principles of Public Life. Without integrity how could one be considered a leader.
15 Have you ever taken recreational drugs, and do you think we should treat recreational drug addiction as a criminal or a health problem?
No I have never taken an illegal substance. There is both a criminal and health element to this question. There are people who are prescribed with medicinal cannabis for certain health conditions. Then there are those supplied with illegal substances ultimately via organised crime groups. Both should be treated accordingly. The continuing disruption of organised crime groups is in my manifesto.
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?
As Chair of the Police and Crime Panel, I, and all my other members, regularly scrutinise all aspects of the budget. This issue will certainly be reviewed once the current contract comes to an end. The Police and Crime Panel also has an excellent Member Champion for Finance who is extremely thorough in all financial aspects.
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?
All details of funding will be given by my Agent, Mrs Anne Roberts, MBE, following the election as required by law
18 In a few lines to wrap this up, why are you the best candidate compared to your competitors?
Experience, you can’t short cut experience. I have been in some challenging situations and have never shirked from them.
It has been fascinating to have had a front row seat in how the PCC, OPCC and PCP, and particularly as Chair, function together.
I am also the Welsh representative on the National Executive of the Police, Fire and Crime Panels.
This has given me a good understanding of the upcoming Emergency Network Service (ESN) project which the Cheshire Panel are leading on. The ESN project will replace the old airwaves that frontline officers currently use.
Since its inception in 2012, I have only been missed one Panel meeting in all that time.
The foregoing shows I am a person of action not gestures. I want to take you along the journey of where I am today – as a candidate for the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner.
I am an advocate of the statement that it is a basic principle of our constitution that police act without political direction.
The police and other emergency workers do a unique and remarkable job in the face of enormous challenges and pressure for which I thank them.