The UK Government and our female Home Secretary Priti Patel acknowledge the horrendous levels of violence against women. We are determined to tackle it through the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. So I was concerned to hear about inaccurate posts on social media suggesting the government believes that damaging statues is a more serious offence than sexual assault. This is of course totally untrue. And congratulations to the single constituents who actually emailed me to ask about it. The maximum sentence for serious sexual assault is life imprisonment. Furthermore, the government has just legislated to make it easier to keep serious sexual offenders in prison for longer and is finding ways to make deportation easier when they are released if they are foreign nationals. As I mentioned last week, we have also legislated to enable police officers to more easily target criminals who habitually carry knives or weapons - something else that should make our streets safer.
Among many other things, there is an increased maximum prison sentence for those who destroy or attack memorials. This was in response to far-right groups daubing swastikas on war memorials, Jewish cemeteries and in other sensitive places. The concern is that these kinds of actions can provoke groups being targeted to respond and run the risk of stoking sectarianism. In my view, those using vandalism to stoke up hatred in our communities should not be let off with a fine or community service but should face imprisonment. However, it is important to remember that sentencing is done by judges not politicians.
On Friday, I received my first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. I’m very grateful to the NHS and staff at Castle Gate Medical Practice in Raglan. It was totally painless and the whole thing took about one minute. What a fantastic vaccination programme we have! The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Each vaccine is one step closer to normality, freedom and reopening the economy. The best thing we can do to help the NHS, help our family and friends, and help everyone else is not to argue about which vaccine you are offered or the location. Get that jab when your turn comes because the more people who are vaccinated, the safer we will all be and the quicker we can ease lockdown restrictions.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 24 March 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 25 March 2021*