Try telling the teen sheriff she's a waste of money

Paris Brown, 17, Britain’s first youth crime commissioner, explains to Paul Peachey why she’s the right girl for the job

Her platform sounds like the classic manifesto of a battle-scarred politician: a respect agenda, concerns over the corrosive effect of unemployment and a determination to stop bored youngsters from hanging around on street corners.

But the aims  of the country’s newest appointee to public office are startlingly ambitious given that she only turned 17 yesterday and has just 12 months to bring about her mission for change.

Paris Brown was unveiled this week as Britain’s first youth police and crime commissioner in Kent on a £15,000 taxpayer-funded salary, in what was hailed by her employer as a blueprint for the rest of the country.

But the teenager has already been forced to justify her appointment after it was criticised by the  Taxpayers’ Alliance as “a ridiculous waste of money” and “expensive tokenism”.

The role has created waves in the county where the local force has had to endure recruitment restrictions because of budget cuts. One reader comment on the Daily Mail website article about her role said: “That’s £4,000 less than a fully trained new police officer. That’s what the government has done to the police!”

“It’s not a waste of money,” Miss Brown told The Independent  yesterday. “I will work as hard as I can, doing whatever I can to get the results that we need. People will be sceptical. There are people who are going to think it won’t work but I will be trying to implement changes.

“I will be the bridge, the voice. I think police feel just as alienated from young people as they (teens) do (from the police). It’s a two-way system…. I will be able to get opinions from both. I want to address these problems. By the end of my time working for the commissioner, I will have helped … getting people to cooperate more, and get people into colleges and employment.”

The appointment was a manifesto pledge by Ann Barnes, 67, an independent who was elected police and crime commissioner for Kent last year. The polls for 41 commissioners were one of the flagship reforms of the Conservative-led coalition designed to give power over budgets and priorities to elected civilian leaders.

While other PCCs have appointed deputies and assistants, sparking allegations of cronyism and money-wasting, Ms Barnes chose Ms Brown from more than 160 applicants.

A third of the teenager’s salary will be paid from Ms Barnes’s salary and two-thirds from the office’s £1.5 million budget. Ms Barnes said that she would be relying on the teenager to help guide her office to help tackle youth offending.

Miss Brown, an apprentice with the borough council, is due to start her 12-month contract in August. It is anticipated that she will be the first of three youngsters to take on the one-year role during Ms Barnes’ tenure.

She is expected to speak at schools and provide a contact point for those who are traditionally distrustful of police, said Miss Brown. The teenager identified unemployment and the lack of anything to do among the key reasons for offending but questioned traditional responses to the problem.

“After-school clubs don’t appeal to teenagers any more. You don’t want to go to papier mache classes,” she said. “There needs to be more employment opportunities.”

Miss Brown, who has  previously been involved in creating a skating park, has already heard complaints about the way police stop and search youngsters that she has been working with on the project. She said one of her main jobs was to get police to respect young people without feeling intimidated – and vice versa.

She said that the response to her appointment has been positive, backed up by the comments on her new Twitter feed. Miss Brown, who intends to go to university in the future, has not ruled out future political ambitions. Both main parties have their problems and she doesn’t think that David Cameron has done a “horrific job” since taking power.

Ms Barnes, a former teacher, predicted that more PCCs would take on youth commissioners in the coming years. “The more we engage with our young people, the better our communities will be,” she said.

The appointment received backing from some of those whose views she hopes to represent.

Becky Hayton, 22, a student nurse, said that a lack of jobs and boredom were the biggest causes of discontent in the county. “I think she can make a difference,” she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?