11/30/2022

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Anti Social Behaviour and a devolved Justice System on the agenda at the Senedd

Anti social behaviour and devolving the Justice System came up in First Minister’s Questions at the Senedd today, Tuesday (Sep 27). Mark Drakeford MS was meeting Nicola Sturgeon the First Minsiter of Scotland and was deputised by Lesley Griffiths MS. 

Jayne Bryant MS asked; What is the Welsh Government doing to tackle anti-social behaviour?

Lesley Griffiths MS Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd replied:

“While policing is a reserved matter currently, we are committed to continuing to do all we can to help reduce anti-social behaviour, working closely with the Home Office on this. We are currently funding 600 police community support officers to help keep people and communities safe across Wales.”

Jayne Bryant MS said: “Anti-social behaviour is unfortunately a blight on many communities across Wales and across the rest of the UK. It can range from small-scale issues, which can really grind people down, to daily occurrences that can make people’s lives an absolute misery. Residents are understandably frustrated and worried when these occurrences often lead to blatant criminality, such as the use of off-road or electric bikes to either deliver or deal in drugs. This can happen at any time of the day and in plain sight of people of all ages, including children.

I was extremely pleased that the UK Labour conference and UK Labour dedicated their first day at that conference to justice, committing to restoring neighbourhood policing and tackling the root causes of offending, a stark contrast to the new Truss Government, whose priority seems to be making the rich richer and tanking the UK economy. While understanding that the Welsh Government doesn’t have all the levers in place to tackle this, and until we see a Labour Government in place at a UK level, what can we do in Wales to support the police and communities to root out anti-social behaviour so that people can feel safe in the communities that they call home?”

Lesley Griffiths MS answered: “I think Jayne Bryant makes a really important point, and I know, as an MS, our postbags often have a lot of constituents who are very concerned about what maybe you would call ‘low-level’ anti-social behaviour. Everybody has the right to peace and quiet in their own homes, and you’ve just raised an important issue around communities also. And I think, of course, our communities are generally a great place to live, aren’t they, but anti-social behaviour can make victims’ lives a misery.

“I mentioned that enforcement and policing are reserved matters, and, obviously, the Minister for Social Justice works very closely with the Home Office. But, of course, the police are only one part of the problem, and many of the drivers that impact on community safety are devolved, and the Minister and the Government are very determined to do everything in our power to make the people of Wales feel safe.

“I mentioned in my opening answer that we maintained the funding for 500 police community support officers, and we’ve also increased their number by 100 over this term of Government. But I think the Minister for Social Justice also takes a partnership approach, and it’s really important that that effective partnership does help us tackle anti-social behaviour.”

Peter Fox MS thanked the Member for Newport West for raising the issue. He asked; “How is the Welsh Government working with councils and local organisations to promote community inclusion, such as community projects that bring people together as well as improving facilities to enhance opportunities for local people? And how are you working with the police to help make it easier for people to report anti-social behaviour to help prevent incidents from escalating further?”

Lesley Griffiths MS replied: “You mentioned having dispersal orders—I think you said just outside your constituency. Obviously, that’s a matter for police operations, but it certainly underlines the importance of the preventative approach that we as a Government take to anti-social behaviour.10

“I mentioned that the Minister for Social Justice absolutely has that partnership approach in everything she does around this agenda, and that includes working with local authorities and any other partner who can help us in this fight against anti-social behaviour.”

Rhys ab Owen MS said that the problem with the issue was that the Senedd doesn’t have the tools in the Senedd to deal with it. He said: “I very much hope that the First Minister, when Liz Truss does phone him eventually, says clearly to her, and to Keir Starmer, that we need to devolve justice to Wales to get to the core of these issues. I also hope that he will take the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister that the Public Order Bill, which prevents legal protests, is a disgrace. I’m sure, Trefnydd, that you would agree with me that it’s important for all of us as politicians to listen when people do protest—what is the core reason for the protest—rather than trying to stop protests from happening in the first place.”

Lesley Griffiths MS said that devolution of the Justice System is being discussed at the current time. She said: “The Public Order Bill, I think, now has been delayed. Certainly, we will not be bringing an LCM forward to the Senedd at the current time.”

Ken Skates MS asked if the Minister would join with him in thanking all of the police forces, and in particular those community support officers that do so much to contain and limit anti-social behaviour across Wales.

Lesley Griffiths MS replied: “Yes, I absolutely would join with you in commending the work that they do. They’re very visible on the streets of our villages.”

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