The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answers on 29th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked His Majesty’s Government:
- what assessment they have made of the rising levels of crime and low conviction rates in rural areas.
- what consideration they have given to setting up rural crime units.
- what steps they are taking to increase the conviction rate for rural crime.
- what guidance they plan to issue to farmers to protect themselves from violent crime.
Lord Benyon (Con): The Statistical Digest of Rural England, published in August 2022 by DEFRA, states “average crime rates (police recorded crime) are lower in rural areas than urban areas”. However, we recognise that some crimes are unique and specific to rural areas.
The Home Office routinely publishes information on the number of offences recorded each quarter and the investigative outcomes of crimes including charges recorded by the police in England and Wales by offence category which can be found at Gov.UK. Our manifesto committed us to use our additional police resources to tackle rural crime. As at 30 September 2022, 15,343 additional uplift officers have been recruited in England and Wales through the Police Uplift Programme, 77% of the target of 20,000 additional officers by March 2023. The deployment of these officers, and the creation of any local rural crime unit, is an operational decision for Chief Constables. In addition, we are taking steps to address issues that we know affect rural communities. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act empowers and equips the police and courts with the powers they need to combat hare coursing. The Government is also providing funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
The Government is also committed to reducing serious violence and putting an end to the tragedies afflicting our communities. This financial year (22/23) we are investing £130 million in tackling serious violent crime, including homicide and knife crime. This includes £64m for Violence Reduction Units, and an extra £30 million to support the police in taking targeted action in parts of England and Wales most affected by serious violence.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked His Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to granting additional powers to (1) the police, and (2) local authorities, to reduce fly-tipping.
Lord Benyon (Con): Local authorities carry out enforcement activity for the vast majority of fly-tipping incidents. In recent years we have bolstered their powers by introducing fixed penalty notices of up to £400 and strengthening their powers to stop, search and seize the vehicles of suspected fly-tippers. The Environment Act 2021 will also help authorities better tackle waste crime through better access to evidence and improved powers of entry.
We have committed to raising fly-tipping penalties in our manifesto. We have published notice of our intention to commission a research project that considers the effectiveness of current enforcement practices which will inform policy development in this area.
Local authorities can also prosecute fly-tippers. In collaboration with the National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group (NFTPG) we have recently produced a guide on how local authorities, and others, can present robust cases to court to support sentences that properly reflect the severity of fly-tipping.
The Environment Agency responds to the most serious illegal dumping incidents and has enforcement powers of its own.