Violent Domestic violence offenders should always be prosecuted, by Jean Calder

Perpetrators of domestic violence in West Sussex are to be offered a 10 month programme to change their behaviour at a time when victims’ services are being slashed.

It concerns me that high-risk abusers will be diverted from the criminal justice system at a time when domestic homicide and other forms of violence against women are on the increase. And that failures in the criminal justice system are being blamed on victims’ reluctance to give evidence. In fact, more women would give evidence if offered the opportunity and better support.

It’s terrifying and exhausting for victims of serial attacks to bear the burden of a prosecution, especially at a time when they may be coping with the threat of further abuse and supporting traumatised children, sometimes in insecure accommodation. They shouldn’t have to, because this isn’t a private matter. Domestic violence is closely associated with homicide, child abuse, sexual assault and other criminal behaviour and social problems. It costs our country billions. It’s in the public interest to pursue prosecution.

Police should be required to pursue prosecutions without relying entirely on adult victims, gathering evidence using every means at their disposal and protecting the victims at all times. The late Ellen Pence, founder of the effective ‘Duluth Model’ in the USA – which by collaborative inter-agency working cut domestic homicides in Duluth to almost none – urged police to investigate every domestic incident, including the first, “as if it were a homicide” and prosecute even ‘minor’ offences. She advocated treatment for perpetrators, but only following prosecution – and after protection and support for victims and child witnesses was in place.

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Vote for the independent Ian Chisnall in Thursday’s Police and Crime Commissioner election

It is never right not to vote. The vote has been hard fought for and should be respected.

On Thursday we are being invited to vote in the ridiculous Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Sussex. Many people have said that they are not going to vote. I would urge everybody to cast a ballot. You may not like these elections and the party you support might not be fielding a candidate. Nevertheless, you have a democratic duty to vote.

At worst, spoil your ballot. Write a message of protest. Better still, write the name of someone not standing at the bottom of the ballot paper. If you are sad and really desperate, vote for the Brighton Politics Blogger!

Alternatively, and this is what I shall be doing, is to vote for the independent candidate, Ian Chisnall. Ian is standing on a platform that includes opposing the party political nature of these elections. I think he is absolutely right.

Everyone has assumed that Katy Bourne, the Conservative Party candidate, will comfortably win this election. I think that is a correct assumption and, given that there will be a PCC, she will make a perfectly competent Commissioner. I’m pleased that it is likely to be the only woman on the ballot paper who will be elected.

But as Alan Clark used to say, ACHAB (“anything can happen at backgammon”. I don’t understand why he said it, it just makes me sound well read!). But I think that there is a very slim chance, very slim indeed, that people around the country might vote in sufficient numbers for independent candidates in these elections.

Therefore, if you don’t like the whole idea of these Commissioners, or if you don’t want to cast a vote for a party political candidate for such a position, or if you are just mischievous, please vote for Ian Chisnall.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner – the protest vote should go to the Independent candidate, Ian Chisnall

With the Procession to Victory, also known as the East Brighton By-Election, fresh in our minds, we turn to the next Procession to Victory, the election to become Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.

There are five candidates in this election:
• Tony Armstrong (UKIP)
• Katy Bourne (Conservative)
• Ian Chisnall (Independent)
• Godfrey Daniel (Labour)
• David Rogers (Liberal Democrat)

Katy Bourne (aka The Winner) has two advantages in this election: she is the only woman in the field of five and she is a Conservative. I’m not saying that the overwhelming popularity of the Conservatives at this time will be a particular advantage, but the Sussex-wide constituency should guarantee a Conservative victory.

In any election Katy would be a formidable candidate, cut as she is from the same blue cloth as my own personal favourite Conservative, Chuck Vere. But it is a shame that this election offers so little by way of a true contest.

I have previously posted my view that this election should not be contested on a party political basis. I am pleased that the Greens have decided not to field a candidate (although I imagine that that is due to pure pragmatic reasons such as the cost of running such a campaign).

I think that the only way that a Conservative candidate could have been properly challenged would have been if the other major party, Labour, and the two obscure fringe parties, the Lib Dems and UKIP, had not stood and put their support behind an independent candidate.

I am very pleased that Ian Chisnall has put himself forward as an Independent. I hope that people will vote for him if for no other reason than to make a statement that this role should not be a party political one.

So good luck to Ian Chisnall in this election and best wishes to Katy Bourne who will be elected on November 15 to represent the 1.6 million population of Sussex as the Police and Crime Commissioner. I am sure she will do a fine job.

The Greens are well placed to have 2 MEPs elected in 2014

Over the next two years there will be two key elections that people in Brighton and Hove will be able to vote in. The first is the election in November of the Police Commissioner. The result of this pan-Sussex vote will almost certainly see the election of a Conservative into what could become a highly politicised, controversial position.

I think it is such a shame that the Labour Party is fielding a candidate since it has no chance whatsoever of winning. I have said before that an independent candidate, such as Ian Chisnell has a much greater chance of producing a shock result than someone from one of the opposition parties.

But the real reason for wanting an independent is that this role should be free from narrow party political influence.

But more intriguing is the election to the European Parliament in 2014. This election is based on a multi-member regional constituency across the South East. 10 MEPs are elected from this region. Last time the parties, all of whom field a slate of candidates, achieved the following results:

  • Conservative 812,288; 34.8%; 4 (total votes; 5 of vote; MEPs elected)
  • UKIP 440,002; 18.8%; 2
  • Liberal Democrats 230,340; 14.1%; 2
  • Green Party 271,506; 11.6%; 1
  • Labour 192,592; 8.2%; 1

No other party polled sufficient votes to have an MEP elected. The British National party, with 101,769 votes (4.4%) came sixth.

The interesting question is what will happen to the Lib Dem vote. It can hardly expect to hold firm. This will be true in every election coming up over the next three years. Some of its vote might transfer to Labour but it is likely that the Greens will benefit most.

The Green Party itself will no doubt benefit from the higher profile that the party has enjoyed following the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster and the election of the first ever Green Council in Brighton and Hove.

My friend, the Enigmatic Flo, will no doubt tell me that Green support itself will not hold firm, with Labour being the main beneficiary. But European elections are not that straightforward and it gives disenchanted voters from across the South East a positive opportunity to vote for, and have elected, non-mainstream parties. I include the Greens and UKIP in this category. Together they had 3 MEPs elected with Labour returning just Peter Skinner.

The Green Party will almost certainly take over from the Lib Dems in third place and, if the UKIP vote weakens, the Greens could be challenging for second place. In either case, it would result, almost certainly, in the election of two Green MEPs.

The Green Party is in the middle of the selection process for its candidates for this election. Particular interest should be given to who comes second and third, assuming that the current MEP, Keith Taylor, is number one on the Green list. The Green party would be well advised to select a woman is number two on its list in order to present a balanced ticket.

Locally, three candidates have put themselves forward, Jason Kitcat, Ania Kitcat and Alex Phillips. My prediction is that Alex Phillips is most likely to appeal to Green Party members in the region and would be a valuable asset at number two on the Green list. I would anticipate that in May 2014 Ms Phillips will join Mr Taylor in Brussels.

Students effect elections, housing and jobs

Since the local elections there has been much comment about the influence of students on the election. In wards like Hollingdean and Stanmer, the Greens were able to organise the student vote, winning two seats from Labour.

Some have commented that it isn’t right that students who are temporary residents in the City can vote in their home town and in Brighton and Hove. In particular some say that it is wrong that the student vote in 2011 will effect how the City is run well after this generation of students have moved on.

My view is that a lively student population enriches the City, and of course they should be allowed to vote. Part of the problem for the old parties is that they have neglected student voters for many years. Caroline Lucas (thanks to the efforts of Allie Cannell) was able to draw on the student vote, ensuring her election.

Nancy Platts, in an interesting post on the blog Southern Front, comments that it is Labour’s lack of vision damaged her electoral chances against Caroline Lucas: “Brighton is a university town with a history of political activism, especially at Sussex University. Student numbers can swing an election in Brighton and tuition fees were a gift to the Greens. How hard can it be to decide where to place your cross on election day when there are three political positions presented; higher tuition fees from the Tories, a free university education from the Greens or, well, er…a ‘review’ from Labour. Did we forget how to do politics – why would any student vote for a review? The Greens consistently targeted the student vote and increased turnout from the universities.” Her post is well worth a read.

Caroline Penn says that she has “nothing against students. I’m sure most of us here were students once. It’s wrong to blame them as you say for many of the issues that have arisen. While friends have had issues with student parties, a more responsible landlord (and better university liaison) should deal with that.”

Craig Turton comments on the impact of students on the local employment market: “Between Brighton and Sussex universities we have one of the largest rates of post graduate student settlement anywhere outside of London but in a relatively small geographical area. This can be beneficial for employers (ie; a virtually permanent pool of highly educated workers) but can equally create problems (ie; competition from graduates leaves local people with few or no educational qualifications at a disadvantage even for jobs not requiring a degree. Without wishing to appear facetious, we probably have the most over qualified call centre workers and bar staff in England).”

Students are a fact of life, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Where have I heard that before? They student body causes problems, enriches our community, puts huge pressure on housing, and creates unfair competition in the jobs market. But Brighton wouldn’t be Brighton without the students. If you don’t like them, move to Worthing!