Racial equality group criticises Ipswich MP over his 'disappointing' comments about crime
PUBLISHED: 17:38 11 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:39 11 January 2020
MP Tom Hunt will meet with a racial equalities group in Ipswich after it criticised comments he made about crime in the town - but he says he stands by what he said.
The Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality said the comments, published in Mr Hunt's column in this newspaper on Friday, were "at best disappointing and at worst an ill-judged piece of dogwhistling".
Mr Hunt wrote that it was impossible to think about remedies to crime without being ready to "confront the possibility that a disproportionate number of crimes are committed by individuals from certain communities".
He added: "People who should know better are too quick to spout to politically correct mantras and too slow to call out problems in certain communities, hindering our ability to get to the bottom of the issue and leaving many residents and victims feeling like they don't have a voice."
'No evidence to back up comments'
His comments have faced criticism from the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) which argues he does not include any evidence to back up his claims.
A spokesman said: "The recent article on the topic of crime in the EADT by the newly-elected MP for Ipswich is at best disappointing and at worst an ill-judged piece of dogwhistling.
"Tom Hunt refers to 'certain communities' and the need for 'action....based on the facts as we see them', in relation to crime in our county town.
"Yet, his article is entirely evidence-free, which raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions about his purpose in writing it.
"Over the decades, ISCRE has enjoyed really strong relationships with MPs from both the major parties as we have shared a common purpose in working tirelessly - usually with great success - in fostering cohesion and mutual respect across our communities.
"We believe that the people of Ipswich are way better than how Mr Hunt portrays them.
"He seems to have rather shot from the hip on this issue and misjudged us without making real effort to understand the town and its communities first.
"A Member of Parliament represents the whole community and his efforts should be geared towards bringing people together.
"Mr Hunt's comments come a few days after a report showing an increase in hate crimes reported in Suffolk. There is nothing wrong with pointing out legitimate concerns about immigration but the MP needs to shoulder his responsibility to all his constituents.
"We invite him to meet with us and the people we are working with from diverse communities so he has a better understanding of the issues we are tackling, including our collaboration with Suffolk Police via the Stop and Search Reference Group and Rules of Engagement.
"The best way to tackle crime is to invest in our communities, courts, the CPS, Legal Aid etc. and not pit communities against each other."
'The problem should not be brushed under the carpet'
However, Mr Hunt says he stands by his comments.
He said: "My column comes about as a direct result of the conversations I have had with tens of thousands of Ipswich residents over the past few months. I promised to the people I spoke to that if elected as their MP I would raise these issues and I am now doing so.
"It is therefore wrong to say that I do not understand the town and haven't made any effort to do so.
"The number one issue raised with me on the door step were concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly in the town centre.
"The vast majority of Ipswich residents I spoke to believe that if it is the case that if certain crimes and negative behaviours are disproportionately committed by one community then this should be looked at and the problem tackled.
"The problem shouldn't be brushed under the carpet.
"We should not shy away from tackling crimes and bad behaviour if the people responsible happen to come from a certain community.
"A crime is a crime whoever commits it and it should be treated as such."
He said he had called for a greater presence of police and street rangers in the town centre, and "for the dispersal large groups of young men loitering in the town centre at certain times of day".
Mr Hunt added: "I have repeatedly made clear that Ipswich would not be the town it is without diversity and that it has benefitted as a result. However this does not mean that we should shy away from dealing with issues as and when they arise."
He posted on Twitter he would be meeting with ISCRE in the near future.