Monday, 23 March 2009

Brunstrom Watch: I Meet Brunstrom

Okay, so you’ve read the title and you’re probably wondering what any self respecting Marxist is doing meeting a police chief constable? Well, a few weeks ago he came to the university to give a talk (which actually replaced the lecture I usually have in the room at the same time as the talk). I can’t remember the title of the top of my head, it was something to do with constitutionalism, wales and policing. Nor did it help that I missed the first few minutes of the talk.

By the time I came in he was talking about the Government of Wales Act (2006) (I assume he was talking about the setting up of the Welsh Assembly prior to this). What he said was significant about this act was that it created a new form of law, Welsh Assembly Measures which if approved by Westminster give it powers over those things. Put he also pointed out that Part 2 Section 5 of the Act gives the Welsh Assembly powers to use this to create new criminal offences, which can have penalties of up to £500 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment (which I think is in section 2??).

What this has led to over the last few years has been the creation of some slight differences in the laws between England and Wales. Brunstrom pointed out three areas that this was so; environmental laws, animal cruelty laws, truancy laws. In each of these areas he spelt out the differences that were emerging. The one which I remember the most clearly was in relation to animal cruelty, to do with the docking of dogs tails. Apparently due to different laws in different parts of the country (and Ireland) its led to a small smuggling trade in dogs to lop their tails off.

He then talked a little about how policing in North Wales differs from other parts of the country. One factor was the 1993 Welsh Language Act which applies to the police and consumes £0.75m a year of the North Wales Police budget. There were also differences in road traffic policing (due to both North Wales and South Wales having one major road which all traffic passes along), emergency service control and the police council tax precept.

But he concluded with some more remarks on the Welsh language and the possibility of full (or elements of) autonomy of Welsh Criminal Justice. In it he pointed out the creation of a separate court region for Wales since April 1st 2008. He also noted the first ever wholly welsh language murder trial took place at Caenarfon Crown Court in 2007 (R v Ellis) and the announcement that a new prison will be built on the former site of Friction Dynamex in Caenarfon, which will be able to recruit directly welsh speakers from the local community (there is no prison in North Wales at the moment).

During the questions a few things were alluded to. Firstly, his view of politics and himself. He said that as a serving police officer he can’t comment on political issues – but by this I think what he really means is party political manueverings. Two things suggest this, firstly the fact that he is outspoken on various policing and social issues in North Wales, but secondly, the anger he had at other police chief constables who had supported the governments proposed increase of detention without trial.

I asked a question about how he thought the public viewed him for raising the controversial topics in the press. He answered that he thought he had a duty to raise these issues as he thought they were important, but were something that politicians wouldn’t do as they were too afraid of losing votes. In his own words, he could do this because he was an opinionated appointee rather than someone who had to seek election. He also said that he didn’t care what people thought of him, although be believed that people welcomed the fact that he raises issues and think that that improves police confidence.

He also got asked about the national question in Wales and he said he favoured a Welsh republic as part of a United States of Europe and that he believes that Wales will be in a similar position to Scotland in the near future.

As for what I thought of the man himself. Well, he’s very self-confident, indeed, to a point where he comes across as very arrogant. However, he’s quite intelligent at the same time and really up for his views to be challenged and criticised. Meeting him, leaves you not knowing what to make of him, but with some respect for him on at least one level.

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

When the Republican Party convention occured near where I live, and many were being arrested, including journalists, I was thinking about how most on the left, don't consider appealing to the cop's class interests.