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Commissioner defends absence after councillors question ‘personal judgment’

PUBLISHED: 07:02 09 August 2014

Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett. Photo: Bill Smith

Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Norfolk’s police commissioner has defended the number of public meetings he has missed after his “personal judgment” was called into question by councillors.

Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett was expected to join the Norfolk Police and Crime Panel at County Hall yesterday to consider his draft Annual Report for 2013/14, which charts the progress being made towards his objectives.

But due to a personal commitment, Mr Bett sent deputy Jenny McKibben in his place.

The meeting heard that it was the third public meeting out of eleven that the commissioner has missed, with legal advice meaning he did not attend one in July and personal circumstances preventing him from appearing at one in December.

David Harrison, Norfolk County councillor, raised concerns over the commissioner’s absence.

“It leads you to wonder if he doesn’t attend and with the expenses, what we can do. The question is judgment - his judgment on crime is quite good, but the personal judgment doesn’t seem to be there,” he said.

But Mr Bett insisted that his focus was in the right place.

“Today’s Police and Crime Panel meeting was scheduled as an additional meeting in order to meet statutory requirements and due to the fact that I was at the funeral of a very close family friend, I was unable to attend.

“I am pleased that the draft Annual Report was able to be presented to the panel today - reducing crime and reoffending in Norfolk is our top priority and we are looking forward to commissioning new collaborative projects to tackle offending and support victims of crime,” he said.

The commissioner is currently under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after he was found to have claimed for 70 trips from his home in Thornham to his HQ 43 miles away in Wymondham from November 2012 to August 2013. He has agreed to pay back the bill of £3,024, but a probe is ongoing. During yesterday’s meeting, the panel heard how collaboration with Suffolk Police had saved the force more than £11m - but that cutbacks were still on the horizon.

Although another £11m is expected to be saved by 2017/18, a further £9m will need to found by March 2018.

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