Since 2010, the Tories and Lib Dems have cut £1 billion from the Metropolitan Police budget and reduced the number of police officers nationally by more than 21,000. They have closed hundreds of local courts, stripped the funding from vital youth services and decimated the funding for Councils to provide children’s services. At every turn, the support services and interventions which keep young people safe and stop violence from escalating have been cut to the bone and as a result the most serious and devastating crimes are increasing; and our justice system is increasingly inaccessible. I have been working to hold the Government to account for the damage their recklessness and wilful lack of concern is doing to our communities and calling for the reforms our community needs.
Over the past year we have seen devastating murders in our constituency as a result of knife and gun crime. On too many occasions I have sat in the living rooms of bereaved parents, listening about their unbearable loss. Every one of these deaths is one too many. Yet under the Tories, incidents of knife and gun crime is increasing. The public health approach to tackling serious violence involves treating violence like a disease, addressing the causes and stopping its spread. It involves youth services, mental health services, schools, hospitals, community organisations, criminal justice system and police all working together to support those who are most at risk, support those who are traumatised, provide positive activities and opportunities to engage young people and rehabilitate offenders. Yet instead of investing in our young people and the public health approach, the Tories have cut the services that matter most, preferring cynical piecemeal headline-grabbing to an evidence-based approach.
I have been working to engage our community in working together to tackle serious violence and lobby for the resources we need to do so. I have directly supported the families of victims of serious violence, organised and attended community meetings, supported inspirational organisations working with young people in our community, and through my work as Patron of the Advocacy Academy sought to empower young people to be agents of change in our society.
In Parliament I have spoken for the families of the victims, campaigned for the resources our area needs, and working with the APPG on Knife Crime, sought to understand the causes of violence and the most effective ways to address it.
A fully functioning and effective justice system is vital for our democracy, for delivering justice, for supporting the victims of crime and rehabilitating offenders. Since 2010 the Tories and Lib Dems have made our justice system a casualty of austerity. Consistent underfunding and the haphazard and incompetent reforms introduced by Chris Grayling have resulted in a courts system which is buckling under pressure.
In 2018 Lambeth County Court, the court which residents in Dulwich and West Norwood had to attend if they were at risk of losing their home, closed. Despite assurances that housing cases from Lambeth would be moved to nearby Camberwell Magistrates Court, it was subsequently announced that Camberwell would also close. The workload from Lambeth was moved to Clerkenwell Court. meaning that my constituents who have to attend court now have to travel further, but it has also led to a catalogue of problems including extensive delays and administrative chaos, lost files and a reported increase in defendants failing to turn up to court, reducing their chances of receiving a comprehensive hearing.
I foresaw these issues prior to the closure of Lambeth County Court and vigorously opposed this decision. I led a debate in Parliament on the national court closure programme and I made detailed representations to the government on the impacts that I believed would result for my constituents. In 2017, I secured a Westminster Hall Debate on the closure, in which the Minister made a number of commitments which have not been fulfilled. I recently took a group of local legal aid lawyers to meet with the Courts Minister to raise our ongoing concerns.
Horrifically, two women a week are killed as a result of a domestic violence and 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. Yet, the Tories and Lib Dems oversaw the closure of many domestic abuse refuges, leaving some areas of the country with no refuge provision at all. More widely, the devastating cuts to public services such as the NHS, capped the Local Housing Allowance and refused to introduce automatic split payments for Universal Credit, denying women survivors of abuse the means to escape to safety. In Parliament, I have been campaigning for a fully funding national network of domestic abuse refuges, a reversal of the LHA cap and automatic split payments for households receiving Universal Credit.