Robert's Weekly Column - 12th April 2018

This week, Home Secretary, Amber Rudd has announced a multi-million-pound commitment to steering young people away from crime and tackling violent gangs. In my role as Solicitor General and as a member of a Ministerial Group on knife crime, I have been involved with this directly.

The Serious Violence Strategy marks a major shift in the approach to recent rises in knife and gun crime and is being supported by £40 million of Home Office funding.

Early intervention and prevention are crucial if we are to tackle violent crime and alongside Wiltshire Police Chief Constable, Kier Pritchard, I welcome key Government commitments, which include £11m for an early intervention programme to help young people and young adults to live positive lives away from violence.

‘County lines’ gang activity, which involves gang grooming and using children and vulnerable young people to traffic drugs has become increasingly popular.  The wider the reach of the gang, the further the violence, drug dealing and exploitation plans. 

As part of the Serious Violence Strategy, the Home Secretary has announced that £3.6m will be used to establish a National County Lines Coordination Centre. The funding will help tackle the threat posed by county lines and enable police forces up and down the country to work together to strengthen enforcement and prevention approaches to ensure the most vulnerable people in our society are protected.

The Serious Violence Strategy sets out the Government's commitment to tackling the changing nature of crime by providing action under three key themes, early intervention and prevention, supporting communities and local partnerships and effective law enforcement and criminal justice response, making Britain a safer place to live.

There was some good news from Westminster recently about an issue that is very close to my heart, as Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education agreed to enter into a funding agreement with Brunel SEN MAT in relation to Churchward School. 

Based here in Swindon, the new Special School will provide 75 secondary and sixth form places for students with autism and associated social communication difficulties.

Churchward School will be part of the Brunel SEN MAT, and sponsored by Uplands School. Although Churchward School will be a separate entity with separate governance and accountability, there will be an on-going connection through a shared vision and set of values.

I am delighted that the Secretary of State for Education has agreed to enter into a funding agreement, which I fully supported.  This will mean that we will have an additional much-needed Special School here in Swindon, providing specialist staff so that children with autism and associated social communication difficulties will be equipped with the skills they need to build and maintain social relationships and achieve their aspirations.

Last week, Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, set out plans to help protect elephants for future generations. The Government published the response to its consultation on a UK ivory sales ban, confirming robust measures that will be brought into force through primary legislation.

The ban will cover ivory items of all ages – not only those produced after a certain date. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.

The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory.

When I unveiled the superb life-size elephant sculpture at the late Lord Joffe's Lidington home in December 2016, we were highlighting the decline in the elephant population fuelled by poaching for ivory. I am proud that we are now taking action as part of the necessary global effort to end this trade that threatens the existence of our noble pachyderms.