Letters: We want race hate crime to be reported

These letters were published in the January 16th edition of the Independent

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In your article “Race hate – a crime the police will not solve” (13 January), Fiyaz Mughal asks what police and crime commissioner or chief constable would want to see an increase in reported hate crime.

The answer is that here, in the West Midlands, we want to see hate crime reporting increase, and we have made this a priority. This effort to increase hate crime reporting has been a consistent feature of our plans. We’re sure many police and crime commissioners and chief constables feel the same way, exactly as Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said.

We have introduced new protocols for more accurate hate crime recording and supported the development of third-party reporting centres where victims can come forward without having to visit a police station, as well as an online hate crime reporting website called True Vision.

Improved training for contact and visitor-handling staff is in place that includes involvement from disability and transgender reference groups. This will be rolled out across the force so that staff are better able to identify vulnerable community members, recognise when a hate crime has taken place, ensure an effective investigation, and seek enhanced sentencing where appropriate, working with the Crown Prosecution Service.

We are also working with the seven local authorities in our area, and developing hate crime reference groups. We acknowledge that hate crimes are under-reported and want to give our communities the confidence to know that they can come forward, that they will be heard, and that they will get a thorough and effective response.

West Midlands Police is committed to encouraging the increased reporting of any type of hate crime, including that which is racially or religiously motivated. As a result, we are seeing increases in reported hate crime and we want to see this continue so we can get a proper understanding of the true level of hate crime – and with this knowledge take the right steps to drive it down.

Bob Jones, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Chris Sims, Chief Constable, West Midlands Police

As well as the under-reporting of race hate crimes, of equal concern is the apparent willingness of the police and some local authorities to “overlook” inconvenient increases in such crimes.

In Hammersmith and Fulham the local Refugee Forum has raised regularly the issue that race and religious hate crime has been on the increase (up 27.5 per cent at one point last year according to the Metropolitan Police’s own statistics).

These figures emerged when the local authority and the police were publicly congratulating themselves on a decrease in burglaries, car thefts and street crime. They left out mention of significant increases in religious and race hate crimes.

Despite letters from us and articles in the local press pointing out the discrepancy, neither the council nor the police have yet responded with an explanation or clarification, or to take up an offer to work with the refugee and migrant community to tackle this worrying issue.

Phillip Cooper, Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Forum, London SW6

Time for our leaders to get fit

At the start of the year, people look in the mirror and resolve to get fit. Might one hope that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have carried out a similar evaluation and will strive to become “fit for purpose” in 2014? I think it highly unlikely.

One can too easily imagine that when they examine themselves in the “mirror” of  Westminster, they rather like the image that is reflected back, distorted as it is by the accretion of power, privilege and patronage.

Stuart Fretwell, Portland, Dorset

Hollande’s diversions good for France

Better for President Hollande to be allowed his diversions – instead of screwing the French economy full-time.

Dr John Doherty, Vienna

François Hollande has conducted his affairs (excuse the pun) in a deplorable way, but it seems par for the course for him. His running of France is surely questionable, though – how does he have the time?

Judi Martin, Maryculter, Aberdeenshire

The British should be allowed to do things their own way, without being dictated to by the Europeans. The French should not be allowed to do things their own way, and British hacks should dictate their social mores.

Rod Chapman, Sarlat, France 

Fracking bribe jeopardises fair planning process

The Prime Minister’s promise of a substantial financial reward for planning authorities that grant permission to fracking applications is deplorable, regardless of one’s views on fracking itself. It is nothing less than a bribe.

Councillors who sit on local planning committees often have to take unpopular decisions and rarely manage to please everybody. We can only function effectively if we are seen to judge each application solely on its planning merits, fairly and openly, and without threat or inducement.

The Prime Minister’s proposal would corrupt the whole planning process and fatally undermine public confidence in the capacity of planning authorities to reach an unbiased conclusion at any level.

My council – which has had its funding reduced by half in the past few years – will shortly debate a motion to condemn this attempt to bribe it and demand its immediate withdrawal. I am proposing this as leader of my council’s Liberal Democrat group and it is seconded by a senior Conservative colleague on our planning committee.

It is our response to national politicians of all parties who seem to regard us as “useful idiots”.

Councillor David Milsted, North Dorset District Council, Gillingham, Dorset

Your article “Fracking industry watchdog has only six full-time staff” (14 January) reports concerns regarding the Environment Agency’s capacity for regulating a future shale gas industry.

The UK shale gas industry is, at the moment, very small: only consisting of one well that has been fractured to extract shale gas, plus several new exploratory activities.

Existing UK regulation contains the necessary elements to manage the risks associated with these small-scale activities. However, if, as David Cameron has promised, the Government is “going all out for shale”, then it must address how the risks  might scale up and how to manage them.

The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering concluded that it is possible to manage the health, safety and environmental risks associated with shale gas exploration in the UK, as long as best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation.

The UK’s regulators should determine their requirements to regulate a shale gas industry should it develop nationwide. The Government accepted all our recommendations and must prepare to scale up the resources needed for proper regulation if the industry is to grow.

Professor Robert Mair, Chair of the joint Royal Academy of Engineering/Royal Society report ‘Shale Gas Extraction in the UK’, London SW1

It’s wonderful news that David Cameron should declare his Government is “going all out for shale”. I assume his enthusiasm will be illustrated by his welcoming the drilling rigs to West Oxfordshire with open arms. How refreshing it will be to see the usual “not in my backyard” syndrome replaced by a “use my back garden” approach.

One assumes that all his Cabinet colleagues will lead from the front by having drilling equipment on their properties. With such a positive display of community spirit, it is no wonder that our parliamentary system is the envy of the world.

Dr David Bartlett, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

We face blatant bribery of local authorities to accept fracking projects. But probably of more immediate concern to householders in areas awarded fracking permission is the attitude of the insurers. It is known that insurers dislike the risks of possible subsidence, such as already found in locations previously used for coal mining.

What a godsend this will be for them to hike up their premiums for otherwise secure properties, based simply on the possibility of an eventual settling of the land levels as the fracking methods alter the underlying geology.

Never mind. More insurance profits mean (in theory) more taxes for the Treasury. Who could object to that? Not the Etonians who have so successfully immigrated into our political interests.

Malcolm MacIntyre-Read, Much Wenlock, Shropshire

I wonder how many of those investors who will benefit financially from fracking  in our small island, might own a highly desirable property in France, where fracking is banned?

I McIlraith, Cumbernauld,  North Lanarkshire

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