Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017.
Crime & Justice
On Saturday, Richard was in Kempston for the launch party of the Companions Real Bread Community Interest Company – a not-for-profit bakery which helps ex-offenders to reduce their re-offending by involving them in the work of a real bread bakery.
Richard said: “This is a great new initiative led by Maggie and Nigel to create great bread and help ex-offenders back into work: a cause close to my heart.”
You can find Companions Real Bread at Bedford Gourmet Market every Thursday, or this Saturday at St Andrew’s Church Bedford or Sunday at St Paul’s Church Bedford. For more information on how you can get involved or purchase their bread, visit the Companions Real Bread CIC facebook page.
Last year, the local judiciary decided to move all criminal cases out of Bedford Magistrates’ Court to Luton. Since then, local MPs, Richard Fuller and Alistair Burt, have been campaigning to get trials returned to Bedford. They have met with the Courts Minister, members of the judiciary and local groups affected by the change.
On Monday, their fight went right to the top when they invited Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling to Shire Hall in Bedford to hear from local court users. The Lord Chancellor heard from local magistrates, lawyers, Police Federation members, the local council and local residents about the detrimental effect the change has had.
Commenting, Bedford MP Richard Fuller said, “It was a totally unfair, unbalanced and undemocratic decision.”
The Lord Chancellor thanked Richard and Alistair for giving him the opportunity to hear directly from local court users and he committed to go away and think about what he might be able to do in response.
On Tuesday 25th March, local MPs Richard Fuller and Alistair Burt held an Adjournment Debate in Parliament on Bedford Magistrates’ Court.
The debate was in response to an announcement in February by the ‘Justices Issues Group’ in Bedfordshire that all criminal and civil cases would be removed from Bedford Magistrates’ Court and heard in Luton instead.
During the debate, Bedford MP Richard Fuller expressed his concerns that the decision would effectively lead to the closure of Bedford Magistrates’ Court. He said,
“This is a crucial issue for local people. It affects access to justice, the ability of people to get to their magistrates court.”
“It is being presented as a reallocation of case loads, but it is not a reallocation of case loads. It is a closure of Bedford Magistrates’ Court by the back door, cleverly but unfairly bypassing the rights of the people.”
Alistair Burt added,
“This is a closure by other means, and an administrative dodge used to ensure that the decision avoids the Minister.”
The MPs called on the Minister to take a close look at the decision and to see whether he might be able to intervene.
The Minister agreed to come to Bedford to meet with the MPs and local people affected by the decision.
The move followed an amendment by local MP, Richard Fuller, and a public consultation that endorsed an increase. As a result, the maximum sentence will increase from just two years to fourteen years under provisions in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.
Speaking after the final Commons debate on the Bill, Richard said:
“I was appalled to learn that the average sentence given to a dog owner when their out of control dog kills a child was just eight weeks.
“I am glad that the Government has listened and has now brought the maximum sentence in line with that for causing death by dangerous driving.
“What people need to know is if you own a dog which kills or seriously harms someone, you are responsible.”
On Tuesday, Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford and Kempston, introduced a Bill to Parliament to require taxis to install CCTV.
The latest in a three year campaign by the MP, the Bill aims to ensure safety for drivers and passengers by requiring taxis to have secure, encrypted CCTV installed.
In his speech to introduce the Bill, Richard spoke of his concern over the number of assaults and attacks that occur in taxis. He also recalled the terrible murder of local taxi driver, Mehar Dhariwal, which he said had spurred him to take action.
Commenting afterwards, Richard said “It is time to stop treating taxi drivers like second class citizens. Workers in other forms of public transport are protected by CCTV and it is time this protection was extended to taxi drivers and their passengers.”
Local MP, Richard Fuller, paid tribute to the service of Bedfordshire Police’s outgoing Chief Constable, Alf Hitchcock, in Parliament on Monday.
Richard took the opportunity to congratulate the Chief Constable on his record as leader of Bedfordshire Police, noting that “Crime rates are down and detection rates are up.”
The MP’s congratulations were echoed by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who also praised all the police staff who work in Bedfordshire on the impact of their work in ensuring that crime has gone down.
You can watch the exchange here.
Richard secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons last Wednesday night to discuss the safety of private hire drivers and their passengers.
Richard called for the debate following an incident in Bedford town centre in January in which a Kempston taxi driver was attacked and killed and another in which a taxi driver was assaulted when the passengers would not pay their fare up front.
During the debate, Richard called on the Transport Minister, Norman Baker, to consider using the “Proceeds of Crime Money” to introduce CCTV or screen shields in taxis and for the government to track more formally the statistics on criminal attacks on private hire drivers in order to use the information to make improvements in the sector.
“Private hire and taxi drivers are a vital part of our public transport system, and when it comes to their physical safety and the safety of their property, they deserve to be afforded the same protection as our bus drivers, airline staff and railway employees, but they are not.”
Citing the FoI request by the Bedfordshire on Sunday that showed that there had been 93 recorded assaults on drivers in the preceding twelve months, Richard noted that the local authority had estimated this was 2% of drivers being assaulted each year, stating “very few jobs have such a high rate of unprovoked violence.”
“Legislation on taxi licences dates from 1847 and 1976, so I welcome the Law Commission review and will be talking with them during their consultation.
“I was very pleased that the Minister, Norman Baker, had such a positive response to my calls for more to be done for driver – and passenger – safety. I hope the review of the legislation will suggest some initiatives to make our private hire and taxi sectors a respected part of our transport system, which is a status that both the drivers and the public deserve.”
For Richard’s full speech and the Minister’s response, please visit:
The Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP, has outlined new plans by the Government to make it easier to evict problem tenants from social housing.
The plans, which are now out for consultation, propose to allow previous convictions for anti-social behaviour to be taken into account, so where the situation has not improved, landlords can act swiftly to evict problem tenants. This will shorten the often long and expensive process which requires landlords to prove again the antisocial actions of their tenants.
Richard welcomed the news. Since becoming MP, he has heard from a number of local residents who suffer from anti-social neighbours. These proposals will help to shift the balance back in favour of the law-abiding victims of nightmare neighbours.
The recent robbery in Bedford’s High Street shows that violent crime remains a real concern for our town. It is alarming that the latest Bedfordshire police figures show that only one in ten serious acquisitive crimes are detected. This is below target and also well below the level that reasonable people have a right to expect.
The changes to Bedfordshire police budgets are not helping. Policing Luton Airport is a major drain on our Bedfordshire Police resources. We are already under-resourced in Bedfordshire and it is wrong that the Government is proposing to cut funding for policing the airport further – by £380,000 – in next year’s budget.
I have real concerns about the low detection rates for serious crimes in Bedfordshire and misjudged budget priorities being imposed on our local police service. A Conservative government will reduce paperwork to enable the police to focus on police work – it currently takes over eleven and a half hours to process an arrest – and make police accountable to a local, directly elected individual who will set priorities for policing their local community