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Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner candidates attend hustings

There was an empty chair at a Police and Crime Commissioner hustings as Labour's Jane Mudd was unable to join Lib Dem Mike Hamilton, Conservative Hannah Jarvis and Plaid Cymru's Donna Cushing on the panel (Pic: LDRS/Supplied)

PROSTITUTION and other anti-social behaviours are troubling residents in inner city Newport – three of the four Gwent Police candidates have heard.

Concerns were raised at a husting held just three days before voters have the chance to elect a new Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, but Labour’s Jane Mudd was the only candidate who wasn’t present. 

The Newport City Council leader said she had been unable to attend the Monday, April 29 evening meeting due to “another longstanding commitment”. 

At the hustings, held at the RCCG Vineyard Chapel in Pill,  the area’s reputation as the city’s red light district and fear of county lines drug gangs were raised by a chapel member who’d only moved to Newport in September.

“Prostitution and county lines drug abuse are notably a huge problem in Pill and it is dubbed the red light district,” said the woman who called for more “early intervention” to address issues impacting the inner-city area. 

Conservative candidate Hannah Jarvis, who stood in the 2021 election for the post that oversees the police and helps set the policing priorities for Gwent and prevent crime, said between 70 to 80 per cent of correspondence she has received during the current campaign has been about “female safety”. 

She said said sex workers aren’t selling their bodies through choice: “They want help to get out of it and I will give these people a leg up to help themselves, that’s what this job is about.” 

Plaid Cymru’s Donna Cushing said she agreed “we need to get to the bottom of why this is happening, I don’t think anyone wants to enter this sort of way of life” and said police need to work with other groups on tackling the causes.

She admitted to a limited knowledge of county lines – the term used for dealers from larger areas setting up drug supply operations further afield. 

The Caerphilly Borough Councillor said: “I don’t fully understand it. I know it’s when people come in from other areas and use vulnerable people, I don’t understand it all, I’ll hold my hand up, but I’m willing to learn and I don’t like vulnerable people being pushed into crime.” 

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Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Hamilton said: “I have a very long answer on sex workers but the reality is we have to target anti-social behaviour if you have kerb crawlers it is an absolute nightmare and they will solicit anybody.” 

He said alcohol and drug addiction are behind prostitution.  

The former deputy leader of Newport City Council also described the authority as the “most important partner” when asked how candidates would work with other bodies to address anti-social behaviour. 

He said he supported “zero-tolerance” policing and said: “If the council make the city centre much more attractive we would see a lot less anti-social behaviour”. 

Members of the audience listening to Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner candidates at a hustings at the RCCG Vineyard Chapel in Pill, Newport. Pastor Femi David is pictured front left (Pic: LDRS)

Candidates were also asked about “cultural sensitivity” of the police when dealing people from other cultural backgrounds and how they would consider the needs of immigrant communities.  

Mr Hamilton said he supported community policing and a sergeant regularly meeting community groups, Army veteran Ms Jarvis outlined her work in supporting people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan and Ms Cushing said her late partner had fled Ceaușescu’s Romania and he, and their daughter, had suffered prejudice in their community. 

Chapel pastor Femi David describe Pill as one of the “most deprived areas not only in Wales but the whole of the UK” with “lots of people with low incomes and perhaps unfulfilling jobs that can lead to criminal behaviour” and wanted to know what candidates would do “to make this place safer for people like us that live and work here.” 

Ms Mudd told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she hadn’t confirmed attendance and was unavailable due to “another longstanding commitment. “ 

She said she had previously in the campaign attended a hustings organised by Welsh Women’s Aid with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates. Plaid’s Donna Cushing confirmed she hadn’t attended that meeting but said it was unclear whether she had received an invitation. 

Incumbent Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert is standing down and the election takes place on Thursday, May 2 with polls open from 7am to 10pm.

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