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Southern Update w/c 2 December

Published: 09/12/2013

Thames Valley Police gets 25 more child abuse officers

Thames Valley Police is to deploy an extra 25 officers to tackle child abuse to deal with a rise in reports.

The force has linked a 40% rise in rape cases in the past year to the abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile and the Oxford grooming trial.

Two specialist units to tackle child abuse will also be set up in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

Chief Constable Sara Thornton said the force will spend nearly £600,000 on the measures despite cuts elsewhere.

She said: "We will have police officers sitting next to members of the local authority and children's services and hopefully colleagues from health, sharing intelligence to safeguard children."

Operation Bullfinch, which led to the convictions of seven men for child sexual exploitation in Oxford earlier this year, highlighted failings by the authorities to detect child abuse early enough.

The Kingfisher Unit was set up to tackle child sexual abuse in Oxfordshire and now similar units are to be set up further afield.

Ms Thornton said, as a result of Kingfisher, the response to child sexual exploitation "has improved enormously".

"They're picking up victims much sooner. It might be that victims aren't willing or able to tell us very much to begin with, but they're building the confidence of the victims.

"Both the Savile case and of course Bullfinch in our own area has raised the awareness of the problem."

Source

Norfolk PCC Stephen Bett pays back more than £3,000 in expenses

A police and crime commissioner who claimed more than £3,000 for driving between his home and his official headquarters is to pay the money back.

Stephen Bett, PCC for Norfolk, claimed for 70 trips from his home to the offices in Wymondham.

He said he had done nothing wrong but would return the money so that the controversy would not "tarnish the reputation of policing in Norfolk".

He said he would no longer claim mileage for those journeys.

Mr Bett, a former Conservative county councillor and Norfolk Police Authority chairman, was elected as independent PCC a year ago on an annual salary of £70,000.

On taking up the post, he designated his home at Thornham, near Hunstanton, as his workplace, and claimed mileage expenses when travelling from there on PCC business.

From November 2012 to August 2013, he claimed a total of £4,947.75 in mileage expenses.

Of that, £3,024 was solely for the 96-mile round trip from his home to the headquarters in Wymondham.

For each of these 70 trips, he received £43.20.

Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and economist, said the claims were not tax-allowable and could not be justified.

Jon Harvey, a Labour town councillor in Buckingham and a blogger on PCCs, said he was "stunned and surprised" at Mr Bett's mileage claims and described them as a "kamikaze move".

After the BBC broke the story, Mr Bett issued a statement saying he would pay back the money.

He said: "I want to make it categorically clear that I believe everything I have done since taking office regarding my expenses has been above board.

"On election I took advice on how and what I could claim and have followed that advice to the letter. I do not believe I have done anything wrong.

"I was absolutely clear from the start that my personal office would be my home and this was checked and cleared by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk and my accountant.

"As far as I am concerned this was all transparent and above board."

He said he had always travelled the "length and breadth" of Norfolk, talking to people about policing and crime in our county.

"Frankly, I have been doing my job," he said.

"However, I am very aware that headlines such as those I have seen today could easily tarnish the reputation of policing in Norfolk.

"Anyone who knows me or has heard me speak knows this is the last thing I would want.

"After discussions with my newly appointed chief executive I have decided to pay back the money I have claimed travelling from my office to the Wymondham headquarters.

"I will also no longer claim when I travel from my office to the Wymondham HQ.

"If there are any further questions to answer I am happy to be held accountable by the appropriate authorities."

Reacting to the announcement, Mr Murphy said: "I'm delighted that Mr Bett has decided to repay this money.

"No-one suggested that what he was doing was in any way wrong but it certainly looked like the reimbursement of Mr Bett's private expenses.

"That did not seem consistent with the objectives of his commission which says it must cut costs for Norfolk's police service."

Source

Update on IPCC investigation into death in custody in Luton

The IPCC’s investigation into the death of a man detained by Bedfordshire Police in Luton is progressing.

The deceased has been identified as 39-year-old Leon Briggs whose family lived locally.

On Monday 4 November, Bedfordshire Police officers attended the junction of Marsh Road and Willow Way. Mr Briggs was restrained and taken to Luton police station. The IPCC has been informed by police that he was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Following a referral from Bedfordshire Police, the IPCC immediately declared an independent investigation and investigators were deployed.

IPCC Commissioner Mary Cunneen said:

“Following a review of the evidence gathered so far, I have determined that this will be a criminal investigation. We are still in the early stages of this investigation and it is important that we do not pre-judge the findings. However, at this stage we believe there is an indication that potential criminal offences may have been committed including gross negligence and/or unlawful act manslaughter, misconduct in public office, and/or offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

“We will also be considering whether any potential disciplinary offences have been committed.

“We have made good progress in the investigation since Monday evening but we are still appealing for further witnesses.

“IPCC investigators have obtained and reviewed CCTV from the custody suite at Luton police station and at the junction of Marsh Road and Willow Way.

“House to house inquiries have been under way since Tuesday morning and I am extremely grateful for the response from the community. A number of independent witnesses have been identified, accounts have been taken and IPCC investigators will continue to interview witnesses over the coming days. Local businesses have also provided CCTV footage to assist our investigation.

“But we still believe there are a number of other people who may have seen Leon on Monday and we are keen to speak to them, particularly if you were in the Marsh Road area or outside Luton police station.

“We are in contact with Leon’s family and continue to update them regularly with the progress of our investigation. I know this must be an incredibly difficult time and my thoughts are with them.

“I want to stress again that this will be an independent and rigorous investigation into the circumstances of Leon’s death.”

Source
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