Justice Secretary David Gauke visits Redbridge to discuss burglary rates and police station closures

Justice Secretary David Gauke visits Redbridge. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar

Justice Secretary David Gauke visits Redbridge. Photo: Aaron Walawalkar - Credit: Archant

Hours after announcing the government would not challenge the decision to release rapist John Worboys, the newly appointed Lord Chancellor paid a visit to Redbridge.

On Friday, Lord Chancellor David Gauke visited Redbridge Town Hall to support local Conservative councillors, campaigners and meet residents ahead of May’s council elections.

Appointed to the post only 10 days earlier, in the prime ministers’ latest cabinet reshuffle, the Recorder spoke to David about crime and policing in Redbridge, capital punishment and the Worboys case.

“We’ve obviously got very important local elections coming up in May,” Mr Gauke said, explaining what brought him to the borough.

“Redbridge is a marginal borough and we’ve got lots of energetic campaigners, candidates and councillors in my party here.

“I am here to lend them some support and help to get the message out that a Conservative council would help tackle crime effectively, would make it a cleaner borough, would get the finances under control and put it on a sustainable footing.”

As Justice Secretary, Mr Gauke leads the government department responsible for overseeing the court system.

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The Recorder asked him what steps he would take to tackle the problem of youth re-offending in the borough which, as revealed in the council’s 2017 Youth Justice Plan, is higher than the London average.

“Well I’ve just been talking to some of the councillors in this area who have raised concerns with me about offending rates and an increase in burglaries in the area,” he said.

“As secretary of state for justice, obviously we’re trying to reduce reoffending.

“But there do appear to be some local issues here and, whether that’s with the Mayor or whether that’s with the council, there are important issues that need to be addressed.“

Asked to expand on what steps can be taken, he added: “Whether this is a question about organisation or policing, I’m here to listen to what people have to say.

“There do seem to be some particular problems in the area that perhaps wasn’t the case a few years ago when Boris was Mayor and Redbridge Council seemed to be more effective.”

Since 2013, police stations have closed in Wanstead, Woodford and Chadwell, under former London Mayor Boris Johnson, and in Barkingside under current Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

At last Thursday’s council meeting, councillors voted in favour of asking the London Mayor to rethink the closure plans.

Asked whether he feels that closures have led to an increase in burglaries, Mr Gauke said: “I think what most is important is that there is an effective police presence.

“In terms of whether that’s best done through police stations and so on, it’s not necessarily for me to say.”

On the issue of re-offending, Conservative councillor Keith Prince, a former council leader, has been more outspoken on his solution.

“I’d bring back hanging.” he said in an Q&A with the Recorder recently.

“It may sound a bit flippant, but a murderer who has a death sentence carried out upon them cannot reoffend.”

Asked on his response to Cllr Prince’s idea, Mr Gauke said: “Well Keith Prince is entitled to his opinion, that’s not my view. I wouldn’t bring back capital punishment.”

The lord chancellor has been featured heavily in the national press last week after deciding not to pursue a judicial review of the parole boards’ decision to release John Worboys from prison less than 10 years after being jailed.

Worboys was imprisoned in 2009 after being convicted of drugging and raping 12 victims while working as a black cab driver.

Mr Gauke told the Recorder that Worboys could be released as soon as the end of January 2018.

Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced plans to send a judicial review pre-action letter, essentially a threat of further legal action against the decision.

“I’ve just made an announcement that I won’t be pursuing judicial review after very carefully considering legal advice on this matter,” said Mr Gauke, responding to Mr Khan’s decision.

“Because when it comes to judicial review, there are different routes that are available for different people in different circumstances.

“I don’t want to prejudice anybody else who is considering taking action on that.

“That’s very much for Sadiq as to how he goes forward.”

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