The meeting was opened by Mr. Alan Hardacre the Gloucester NHW Unit Officer for Glos. Constabulary. Alan welcomed Members, Guests and Guest Speakers to the meeting. Mr. Paul Finch, Association Vice Chairman, was introduced as the Chair for this AGM, owing to the ill-health of our Chairman Mr. David O’Brien. Our thoughts are with David at this very difficult time.
Alan thanked the 58 attendees for supporting the meeting and the Association in general.
Alan explained that once again, the preferred format of the AGM was to have the guest speakers make their presentations prior to the normal order of business, so as to afford maximum time for question and answer sessions and so that the guest speakers could depart the meeting prior to the normal order of business. Alan then gave a brief introduction for the two Guest Speakers: Mr Andrew Walters, District Chief Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Martin Bruton, Consumer Advice and Community Development Manager for Gloucestershire Trading Standards.
Andrew Walters joined the CPS at its’ inception in 1986 and his presentation focussed on the framework of evidential and public interest criteria within which CPS prosecutors work in order to advise police on possible prosecutions, making decisions about charging and to prepare cases effectively for court. The CPS is responsible for cases presented in the Youth, Magistrates and Crown Courts of England and Wales and their remit covers the charging of offenders, preparing cases for trial and prosecuting cases in the courts. Prosecutors will advise on the evidence requirements for a prosecution to proceed. The CPS also works with partner agencies to recover the proceeds of crime. Crown Prosecutors operate to a code which sets out the principles to be followed when making charging decisions on cases and act as ‘gatekeepers’ to the courts process (in all but the most simple cases). There is an Evidential test, which attempts to ascertain if there is a realistic prospect of conviction with the available evidence. The selection of the actual charge in a particular case is also linked to the available evidence and must be considered carefully. The Public Interest test exists to establish the benefit to society of pursuing a particular case. Andrew used a fictional example to illustrate when it would be deemed ‘not in the public interest’ to prosecute. He explained the other out of court disposal options available, i.e. cautions and conditional cautions which may include compensation to the victim. Andrew explained that youth crime can be very cyclical in nature and the administering of youth justice has to be carried out very carefully to ensure cases are handled appropriately. In more serious cases there is a Threshold test, where a decision must be made on whether to remand a suspect in custody, especially if further evidence (e.g. forensic) is awaited, or if the suspect is thought likely to breach bail conditions. In closing, Andrew explained that the CPS has 12 key standards that set out what the public and CPS partners can expect from the organisation. More information on the service is available from http://www.cps.gov.uk. Andrew then took a number of questions from the floor.
Alan Hardacre then introduced C.I Richard Burge, who spoke briefly about the re-organisation of Gloucestershire Constabulary into 6 Local Policing Areas (LPA’s), consisting of Local Policing Teams (LPT’s) and Community Teams. Gloucester LPA is under the control of Supt. Gary Thompson, with Insp. Mark Soderland in charge of the City LPT and Insp. Neil Smith running the District LPT, which covers Hucclecote through to Quedgeley. Information about the Community teams serving each area are available on the Constabulary website. Richard explained that we are only 2 months into this new regime and whilst progress is good, further changes may be necessary to achieve the best from this new structure. He stressed the continued importance of Neighbourhood Watch, especially bearing in mind the budgetary constraints the Force is currently facing. He stressed the importance of reporting all incidents and crimes, as intelligence is vital in allowing the force to identify trends and offenders. Richard encouraged members to build relationships and engage with local officers, which in turn would assist them in providing the best service possible to communities. Richard highlighted current crime issues for the Gloucester LPA – thefts from motor vehicles is currently a problem and he urged everyone to ensure that valuables were not left in vehicles, or that they were placed out of sight. Also, for people to ensure that vehicles were not left unsecured at any time. Metal thefts continue to be an issue, mainly due to the high value of scrap metal at the current time. Richard received one question from the floor, regarding the level of bureaucracy faced by the Police in carrying out their duties. He explained that due to current statutory and legal requirements, the level of paperwork has not decreased, but that it is hoped that the new organisation will allow this to be handled with greater efficiency, allowing the force to maintain a highly visible presence within the county.
Alan Hardacre then introduced Mr. Martin Bruton, Consumer Advice and Community Development Manager for Gloucestershire Trading Standards. Martin commenced by highlighting the remit of the service – To ensure a fair, safe and healthy trading environment and to tackle trading practices which cause the most consumer detriment and those affecting vulnerable consumers. The service aims to tackle serious ‘rogue traders’ and fraudulent trading activity. There have been a number of recent cases involving builders not completing work or providing substandard work/services. It also aims to help legitimate traders comply with current regulations, especially the small to medium sized firms. Work continues in the area of consumer safety, where faulty and substandard equipment leads to health and safety issues, Martin gave 3 recent examples of investigations. The agency is also involved in ensuring the health of animal livestock and preventing the spread of disease. Food fraud has recently been an issue with the substitution of cheaper foods, animal products and alcohol for specific types or more expensive branded goods. False claims for goods/services is another area dealt with by Trading Standards, an example of which was the claim of a trader to provide expensive, individual cremations of pets/livestock, when in fact this was not taking place. Ongoing areas of concern for the agency are retail pricing problems (especially relevant following the VAT increase) and restrictions on consumer’s rights to return faulty goods. He highlighted work carried out in association with partner agencies (HMRC and the Police) with regards to illegal cigarette, alcohol and DVD sales. There continue to be problems with online auction sites etc. due to counterfeit goods and Martin advised the audience to exercise care when purchasing goods via this method. ‘Prize Draw’ scams are also an ongoing problem and people are reminded that this method continues to fool people into parting with cash and personal details. Martin quoted the old adage – “If it looks to good to be true, then it probably is!” Trading Standards continue to use a range of methods to achieve their goal of bringing traders into compliance with current legislation and regulations. The service has successfully used the tactic of getting traders (e.g builders and car dealers) to sign undertakings to cease unacceptable practices. If the trader breaks the undertaking, then Trading Standards has taken civil action and contempt of court orders to achieve prison sentences for persistent offenders. Help and support continues to be provided to consumers in resolving disputes with traders and to assist consumers in finding trustworthy traders. The ‘Buy with Confidence’ scheme has eight local businesses signed up, who have reached the required standards and whose staff have been CRB checked. The scheme is obviously facing some difficulties at the present time as the economic downturn puts pressure on traders and makes them less willing to absorb the costs of joining the scheme. In closing, Martin reminded everyone that like all public services, Trading Standards is facing financial and resourcing constraints, this means that its’ enforcement work must be intelligence led and requires input from the public to highlight issues. Martin then spent a couple of minutes answering questions from the floor.
Alan Hardacre thanked the guest speakers for their enlightening presentations and for giving up their time to address the AGM. Alan then introduced Mr. Paul Finch the Vice Chairman of the Association, who was the acting Chair for the meeting, who commenced the order of business.
- Apologies have been received from David O’Brien (Chairman), and Mr David Foster.
- The minutes of the 2010 AGM had been made available to all attendees. These were reviewed and agreed as a true record of the proceedings. Proposed by David Brown and seconded by Susan Boyland.
- Matters Arising – See AOB regarding the emailing of Cascade to members.
- Vice Chairman’s Report – see appendix 1.
- Treasurers Report – copies of the report were once again made available to all attendees. There was only one query from the floor, regarding how income from one of our Sponsors was recorded. The Association Treasurer, Mr John Currie, explained how the income was classified in the accounts.
- Committee recruitment – Paul Finch had explained during his report the ongoing need for further support members for the Association’s committee and asked if any members attending the AGM were able to assist. He outlined the level of commitment required and that any assistance would be more than welcome from members. Two members volunteered their services, Mr Patrick Feist and Mr John Powell. (There were also further expressions of interest at the end of the meeting). A suggestion was made from the floor, regarding a call for further volunteers in the next issue of Cascade. Alan Hardacre and David Brown from the committee stated that this would be done in a future issue.
- Election of committee members. The current committee members were proposed for re-election en bloc, Proposer – Mr Walter Schonbeck, Seconded by – Mr David Gladstone. All current members were unanimously re-elected.
- AOB. The matter of reducing the cost of publishing the Association newsletter (Cascade) by emailing copies to members was raised again. The committee continue to look at a means of utilising this method of distribution, but it was explained that the logistics of this method required significant resources, which the committee did not currently possess. The meeting was reminded that GDNWA is the only Association that sends a regular newsletter to every single one of its’ members and hard copy distribution remains the one method guaranteed to ensure that this is achieved. Paul Finch and Alan Hardacre highlighted the need for more funding to continue the production of Cascade in its’ current format. The current funding will run out in Spring 2012 and they requested that members help the committee to identify new funding streams. The suggestion of using paid advertising was discussed, and the concerns surrounding this. There is a risk that GDNWA could be seen to be endorsing products/suppliers and this had to be considered very carefully. Mrs Doreen Morris stated that her scheme operated a practice of regular annual donations by scheme members to fund any costs and asked if this would be a possibility for the Association as a whole. Again, the logistics of administering this would be extensive and would rely on the goodwill and support of all members and co-ordinators. This would be further discussed by committee members in future meetings.
There being no further business, Paul Finch and Alan Hardacre thanked everyone for attending the meeting and closed the meeting at 2100hrs.
Vice Chairman’s Report 2011
Last year – 2010 has been another successful year for GDNWA
Despite falling or stable crime figures we are still managing to recruit new schemes and our total reflects this. We were involved with quite a few initiatives to promote membership which I will mention in my report. Your committee work extremely hard to maintain a proactive association rather than a reactive one.
- NEW WEBSITE – http://firstname.lastname@example.org (There are links to “Twitter” and “Facebook”) – thanks to new committee member Simon Whitson.
- Increased schemes from 436 to 450 while maintaining schemes with lost Co-ordinators.
- Participated with Partners in Crime Reduction and Reduction of Anti-social behaviour initiatives.
- Funding (£1000 grant from Home Office after Field Officer completed a Community Crimefighter Course) and purchase of Laptop, printer, camera and hard drive.
- Purchase of Gazebo and Banner Roller stand to improve our marketing potential.
- The improvement in Cascade presentation and interviews with Chief Constable Tony Melville who is committed to NHW
- Presence at St Michaels Tower Gloucester for phone and cycle coding in National Neighbourhood Watch week.
- Funding (£1500 from Gloucestershire Constabulary) for Cascade until Winter 2011
- Continued support from Allcoopers for Cascade production and distribution.
- Attended fun days at Hucclecote and Kingsway
- £220 Grant from Gloucestershire Police Authority from Proceeds of crime.
- Participated with Partners in “Have your say days” Coney Hill, Kingsholm and Abbeymead.
- We organised a successful “Safe homes – Safe families” training night along with Gloucester Fire and Rescue Service, Community Safety Partnership, Glos Police and Norton Garden Centre (for defensive planting) at the Fire Station
- Successful contacts with various Residents Associations in Oaklands Park, Podsmead, Matson, Tredworth, West Quay (Docks) and The Lampreys
- Participation in a Crime Prevention Awareness day organised by Gloucester Safer Partnership in Gloucester Kings Walk
- Summer 2010 – Gloucestershire Constabulary Chief Officers Group confirmed their commitment to and support of the position of Neighbourhood Watch Field Officer.
- Your Chairman, Vice Chairman and Field Officer continue to attend the Quarterly meetings of the County Association
Increased committee by 1 but also lost through ill health THEREFORE NEED MORE HELP We are looking to increase the numbers by at least another 5 members to bring fresh ideas to the table. We normally only have 4 or 5 members available for meetings and this is not enough.
Thanks to all Neighbourhood Watch Association Officers, Chairman (David O’Brien we wish him well), Treasurer (John Currie), Secretary (Steve Jones) and David Brown Cascade Editor and Publicity
Big thanks to our main sponsors Gloucestershire Constabulary, Gloucester Community Foundation and Allcoopers – and our Partners Gloucester Community Safety Partnership.
And last of all our Field Officer!!