Speaker’s Corner: A staggering success story for our police

Speaker's Corner: Mike Penning
Speaker's Corner: Mike Penning

Crime is down by more than a fifth since the last election with 2.4 million fewer crimes reported across the UK in 2013-14 than in 2009-10.

There were 150,000 fewer homes burgled and 400,000 fewer violent crimes. This is a staggering success story for our police.

I cannot praise the work of our police highly enough. Last week I was honoured to be invited to present awards and medals at the Hertfordshire Constabulary Chief Constable’s Awards Ceremony.

I have to say it was a very moving experience and the stories of the incredible bravery shown by many of the recipients were incredible.

A police officer really does not know what they will confront when they are called to a situation and they really do deserve considerable respect.

As Minister of State for Policing, I am fortunate to regularly get to spend time with the police. This enables me to get the police viewpoint first-hand and also to witness the demanding and difficult job they do.

Last month I spent a day on the road with Hertfordshire Constabulary. It was great to be on “home turf” and to hear about issues and problems facing the police in and around Dacorum.

Without doubt, this is an important part of my job.

Although I have a background in the fire service and know, probably better than nearly any other MP, the realities of life in the emergency services, many years have passed since I was in the front line and it helps keep me in touch with the current situation.

One of the issues we have discussed over the past months has been drink – and drug – driving.

I have been spending some time lately on making sure the legislation is in place ahead of the introduction of roadside drug impairment testing – or the drugalyser test as I guess it will come to be known.

This test will help the police to assess whether a driver is under the influence of drugs.

In the not too distant future, when a police officer stops a driver who is clearly impaired yet after being breathalysed does not have enough alcohol in their bloodstream to prosecute, the police will be able to carry out a roadside drugalyser test.

The drugalyser test works on saliva (a quick dab on the tongue) and if found positive, will give the police sufficient evidence to arrest the driver.

Not far away, in Sandridge just outside St Albans, is the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST).

This is where they test and approve new equipment for use by the police and I visited recently to see the new drug testing kits for myself.

This new device will make all the difference and police forces around the country are already preparing for its introduction.

Drug-driving, like drink-driving, puts innocent people’s lives at risk. The message we need to send out is a simple one. Do not drink and drive and do not take drugs and drive, whether they are legal or not.