Police sheriff Tory to stand in Harwich

THE architect of a new controversial Tory policy to make elected sheriffs responsible for local policing has been chosen to win back Harwich from Labour at the next election, it emerged last night.

THE architect of a new controversial Tory policy to make elected sheriffs responsible for local policing has been chosen to win back Harwich from Labour at the next election, it emerged last night.

Douglas Carswell, who was Tony Blair's opponent in 2001, put forward his proposal last year in a booklet produced last year for the Tory think tank C-Change.

Mr Carswell, who is in Blackpool at the Tory conference, said his plan would make sheriffs accountable for the successes and failures of local policing.

Mr Carswell's initiative has been taken up by Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin and incorporated into official party policy, aiming to re-engage the Tories with the voters.


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"Responsibility for policing, and for prosecuting criminals, should be handed to a directly elected US style sheriff representing each county, city or large town.

"Each sheriff would be held directly accountable by local people for how effectively the law was upheld. Chief constables would report directly to local elected sheriffs, who would assume responsibility for their local police forces, and who would be held accountable by local people for the effectiveness of the local police in upholding the rule of law.

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Robert Chambers, chairman of Essex Police Authority, last night dismissed the scheme.

The Tory Uttlesford district councillor said: "These plans will change the face of policing in this country forever. Our police force is the best in the world.

"We are not America, we already have a lot of autonomy in this country and it works well with someone like a chief constable who has overall control."

He added: "Locally elected sheriffs will be open to corruption, just as they are in America."

Mr Chambers, who is also deputy Conservative leader on the Association of Police Authorities nationwide, warned Oliver Letwin if the party wished to regain power it had to listen to people like him.

"I requested a meeting with him two months ago but he hasn't had the decency to reply. I've spoken to many of my colleagues on this and they are as dead against it as I am."

Chief Supt Dave Murthwaite, Colchester divisional commander at Essex Police, said he was not sure the "radical" idea proposed by Mr Letwin was really needed, but supported any move to ensure more targets were set at a local level.

He said: "However, we would need to be careful about balancing out the need for local autonomy versus the need to mobilise officers across the county when and where necessary, just as we did in the Danielle Jones case."

Mr Carswell added: "Where police incompetence resulted in failure to convict, the elected sheriff could be held directly accountable for that failure by local people."

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