Home Secretary Priti Patel meets Tavis' family during 2019 General Election visit to Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 16:30 11 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:58 20 November 2019
Home Secretary Priti Patel met the father of murder victim Tavis Spencer-Aitkens during a two-hour election visit to Ipswich to support Tory candidate Tom Hunt.
And she promised Neville Aitkens that she would look again at how prisoners could get access to mobile phones after hearing about videos about the murder that had been put on Youtube by Tavis' killers from their prison cells.
Ms Patel travelled to Ipswich from her Witham home first thing on Monday morning to meet community leaders at the Nansen Road Baptist Church which has been at the forefront of attempts to support the community in the aftermath of last year's murder of the 17-year-old.
Five men are serving sentences totalling more than 100 years after four were convicted of murder and one of manslaughter after a trial which ended in April.
Ms Patel said battling gangs was one of her main priorities - and that had to happen on several different levels. Strengthening the police was one priority - but also building community relations from the ground up with the kind of initiatives now being seen in East Ipswich.
Meeting community leaders including Terry Charles and Tavis' stepmother Helen Forbes, she said schemes like theirs which bring children and teenagers from across Ipswich together was the kind of project that deserved support from councils and central government.
She said: "There is so much that can be done and clearly is being done. It is humbling to come here today listening to Neville and Helen and others who are part of the voluntary effort locally and the work they are doing is really helping kids to turn their lives around.
"That is not something you can send on a piece of paper or a consultation document from the Government. It is something that has to come up from the grassroots and that is what we are seeing here today."
She said the Home Office was working with local organisations across the country to support schemes like that in Ipswich.
Mr Aitkens raised the issue of videos posted by some of the killers from jail which referred to the death of his son - he told the Home Secretary of the hurt this had caused his family.
Ms Patel said: "This is totally wrong. It is unacceptable. I shall take it up as soon as I can and find out what has happened."
She said platforms that allowed this kind of material to be posted should take it down immediately if they were contacted about it.
Suffolk Police have been given 54 more officers this year as part of the government's boost to policing but it is still one of the smallest forces in the country in terms of police per 100,000 of population.
Ms Patel insisted this was just the start of an improvement: "More will come. All I can say right now is that it is going to get so much better in Suffolk in terms of cash for forces, in terms of cash uplift for police officers, uplift for training, uplift for equipment."
The Home Office is also responsible for immigration and there are concerns about how changes to the rules for EU immigration could affect businesses and other workplaces - especially the NHS - which depend on EU workers.
Ms Patel said the government's "Settled Status" offer to EU citizens had now been taken up by 2.3m of the estimated 3.4m EU workers in the country.
She said: "That is phenomenal. It is a huge number in a short period of time and that will continue. That guarantees settled status for those that are already here. In my view that is the right thing to do."
Ms Patel said there was a new fast-track visa for doctors, nurses and other health professionals who wanted to work in the NHS and there were schemes that allowed temporary workers to find season jobs in this country.
She said it was wrong to suggest there were not enough British people who wanted to work as hospital cleaners, porters, or in hospital catering. "British employers are constantly training and recruiting from the whole of the United Kingdom and from their own local communities as well."
She added: "Our future immigration system will be based upon not just a free-for-all for people to come into the country which is what the Labour Party proposes.
"We will have a skills-based system which is why we will have an Australian points-based, skills-based immigration system because we do need high-skilled people coming into our country to work in the NHS and elsewhere."