Wednesday 6 December 2023
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Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards April 2021 column: Pet theft, online scams and domestic abuse

Ruth writes: In this month’s column, on the eve of the much-awaited finale of Line of Duty, I want to talk about some recent developments in tackling crime, both on the national stage and here in Rushcliffe.

This comes amid a backdrop of increasing police numbers, with the total number of new officers recruited nationwide currently at 8,771 of the 20,000-officer manifesto target.

Nottinghamshire Police now has hundreds more officers than it did at this time last year, which I hope you will join me in welcoming.

I have been involved in work to tackle three very specific crimes, incidences of which have sadly increased over the COVID-19 pandemic: Financial crime and online scams, pet theft, and domestic abuse.

Online scams

On Wednesday (28th) I held a Westminster Hall debate to raise the issue of online scams.

These scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, playing on people’s anxiety throughout COVID-19, and targeting elderly and vulnerable people. Some pretend to real companies or government agencies and purchase advertising space at the top page of trusted search engines.

Having heard from victims, consumer organisations and law enforcement, I believe more needs to be done to bring the regulation of online platforms in line with TV, print and radio. Online platforms should be required to take reasonable steps to protect users from fraudulent content and, if they fail to do so, should be liable to compensate them.

At the moment they are making billions of pounds in advertising revenue without making sufficient checks to stop criminals benefiting from the reach of their advertising service.

In my speech, which you can find on video here, I called on Government to prioritise the tackling of these offences. With the average loss to such scams sitting at £45,000, every single day counts.

Pet theft survey

There have been reports of a rise in pet thefts across the country, particularly of dogs. As someone who rears a variety of animals at home including three alpacas, a brood of troublesome chickens and now (the newest and loudest member of the family) Sergeant Wilson the donkey, I understand how important this issue is to many people.

I have been running a pet theft survey to get the views of local residents. This survey is still open for entries, so if you would like to take part and have your voice heard, please do so at the following link:

Currently, the theft of a pet is already a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968, but there are calls for tougher sentences. Ministers from Defra (who lead on this area of policy), the Home Office, and the Ministry of Justice are discussing sentencing guidelines. I will be sharing the outcome of my survey with them and asking them to take tough action.

Nottinghamshire Police have also just assigned their very first pet theft officer, and I look forward to working with the police to help tackle this awful crime and protect our pets.

Domestic Abuse Act – Threats to Share

Many of you may know that I’ve been campaigning to make ‘threats to share’ indecent images a criminal offence. I am delighted that this offence has now been included in the Domestic Abuse Act, which received Royal Assent yesterday (29th), and carries a 2-year maximum prison sentence.

This is a major win for victims. I extend a huge thank you to Natasha Saunders, a survivor of domestic abuse who herself was threatened with the release of intimate pictures by her ex-husband. Her bravery and courage in kickstarting this campaign is inspiring. Natasha’s website can be found here.

This is just one of the huge range of measures that the Domestic Abuse Act will put into place to protect victims. You can read more about the other measures here.

Finally, on the question everyone is asking. I’m afraid I know only one thing about the identity of H…

it isn’t me.

•  Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards – March 2021 column