Candidate Interviews (LDRS)

Logo of the A&S PCC.

Interviews with candidates in the 2024 Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Election – supplied by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

Benet Allen (Liberal Democrats)

Head and shoulders photo.
Benet Allen.

“Don’t let the countryside get forgotten,” one of the people hoping to be in charge of overseeing Avon and Somerset Police has urged voters.

Benet Allen is the Liberal Democrat candidate hoping to be elected as the new Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner on 2nd May 2024. He wants the police to be more visible, focus on crime prevention, and tackle more rural crime — despite thinking the role he is standing for is “largely, if not completely, unnecessary”.

Mr Allen was formerly the deputy leader of the now-disbanded Somerset West and Taunton Council, where he said he had gained a long experience of dealing with people in difficulties and the council had built the area’s first council homes for the last 30 years. He said:

“The housing crisis and the shortage of affordable housing to the young generation is one of the things that drives people to crime.”

“Most people don’t want to be criminals.”

Mr Allen also wants to see more of a focus on rural crime, adding that there were currently only four people in the force’s rural crime team. He warned that illegal fox and deer hunting was still happening in the Somerset countryside, along with organised crime, large scale thefts of machinery, and anti-social behaviour. He said:

“Don’t let the countryside get forgotten.”

Across the whole area of Avon and Somerset, Mr Allen said he wants police to be more visible and see them speak to children in schools to help reduce knife crime. He said:

“Prevention, prevention, prevention: it’s so much cheaper than a cure.”

He continued:

“We need to restore relations between the community and the police.”

There are also too few police and community support officers, he warned. But he added:

“I’m not going to make any commitments about having more police because there isn’t any more money. But I will be going to Whitehall and be banging on the drum.”

One area which he does not think is under-staffed is what would be his own team if elected. Mr Allen said:

“The police and crime commissioners’ office has 31 full time staff; that’s a bloated office if ever there was one. […] The Liberal Democrats’ position on the police and crime commissioner is that the office is largely, if not completely, unnecessary.”

But he added:

“Make no mistake, if you elect me as your police and crime commissioner, I will manage cautiously and carefully and on the basis of evidence on finding out what works and applying that.”

Interview by John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).


Katy Grant (Green)

Head and shoulders photo of Katy Grant.
Katy Grant.

A woman whose work in humanitarian aid took her to Afghanistan, Chad, Somalia and Cambodia is now hoping to take on the challenge of overseeing Avon and Somerset Police.

Now a councillor on Bristol City Council and a family court magistrate, Katy Grant is the Green candidate for Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner in the elections to the role on 2nd May 2024. Ms Grant told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “For the great majority of my adult life I have been working in the humanitarian foreign aid sector.”

Her CV lists the UNHCR, UNICEF, and Save the Children among the organisations she has worked for. Before taking up the career, in which she focussed on child protection and violence against women and girls, she grew up on a farm in west Somerset.

Ms Grant said:

“I live in Bristol now and I’m a councillor now so I feel I have got a good feel for Bristol but I also think I have got my finger on the pulse of that other community. I go up and down all the time to the farm so it’s an important part of my life.”

She is now the Green councillor for Clifton but is standing down at Thursday’s election, when she hopes to be elected as police and crime commissioner — a job she said is: “not a brilliantly well understood role”. She said:

“I think what most others don’t understand is by voting for this non-operational commissioner, what they are doing is allowing this commissioner who gets voted in to be the voice of the public and the local community on policing matters.”

Ms Grant added:

“I think if you are a good police commissioner and I would hope I’d do that, you are essentially out and about a lot listening to people’s concerns, listening to how people experience policing.”

“And its perfectly apparent that people experience policing differently depending on who they are.”

She said that in most places, people had told her that they were not seeing enough of the police in their local area, but, at a recent police and crime commissioner hustings hosted by Black South West Network, she heard from the Black community about being on the receiving end of stop and search and having police cars pull up when sat in a vehicle.

Ms Grant said:

“Despite all the improvements, police still need better training on how to interact with the community members who, yes, they are protecting but who they are also in a sense putting in a position of suspicion.”

She wants the police to take part in more “collective work” on the prevention of crime,  particularly around knife crime.

She said:

“Being a councillor has allowed me to work with service providers and those doing things in the community around those issues and around prevention. It’s helped me to see what kind of options the police have to work with all kinds of service providers to do more about it.”

She is also keen to strengthen policing of county lines, get better resources for neighbourhood policing teams in rural areas, have the police engage in collective work to eliminate traffic fatalities in both urban and rural areas, and support victims in cases of violence against women and girls through the prosecution process.

She said:

“I think we need to ensure that women and girls are feeling safe in their homes and on the street.”

Interview by John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).


Clare Moody (Labour)

Head and shoulders photo of Clare Moody.
Clare Moody.

One of the South West’s former members of the European Parliament is hoping to be elected to oversee Avon and Somerset Police.

Clare Moody is the Labour candidate for Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner in the elections to the role on 2nd May 2024. If elected, she has five key priorities: investing in neighbourhood policing, supporting victims of crime, reducing violent crime such as knife crime and violence against women and girls, preventing crime, and restoring trust and confidence in policing.

Ms Moody said:

“I think my experience feeds into [this] strategic role.”

From 2014 to 2019, Ms Moody was one of the South West’s six representatives in the European Parliament where she worked on the security and defence committee and the budget committee. She also said she also worked “at the heart of government” in Gordon Brown’s No. 10 between 2008 and 2010, as well as spending 20 years in the trade union.

She said:

“When you have budgets, when you have public policy, its about political choices. These are things I’m all too familiar with.”

She previously stood for police and crime commissioner in Wiltshire in 2012, coming second.

If elected in May, she hopes to use the Police and Crime Plan, one of the police and crime commissioner’s legal duties, to tackle her priorities. She said:

“It’s about where you have that focus.”

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service:

“Wherever I go in the region, whether it’s Bath, Bristol, whether its rural Somerset, the thing that’s constantly coming up is that people don’t feel they see the police. We have lost that neighbourhood policing focus.”

Ms Moody said that she wanted to make sure victims “feel that they are heard and listened to”.  She added:

“We really have to do more around crime prevention. […] The best way to solve crime is to stop it happening in the first place.”

She continued:

“Finally, its about standards in policing and making sure Avon and Somerset Police are the best that they can be in upholding the highest standards so the community feel trust in their police — and also so the great police officers and staff that there are can justifiably be as proud in the force that they serve.”

Ms Moody also hopes to use the ‘convening power’ of the police and crime commissioner to help public services to work together. She said:

“The police are not the only answer to some of those problems.”

Ms Moody said she wants to be a “visible and accountable” police and crime commissioner. She said:

“It’s also about getting out, meeting with communities all over Avon and Somerset. Its engaging with community groups, its engaging with the voluntary charity sector.”

On knife crime, she said:

“Obviously when there has been a stabbing — and dear god we have had too many of them — we have to respond by finding the perpetrators and the offenders and they are charged and the weight of the law is brought down. But a really important part of this job is prevention.”

She said that messaging and communication in schools was important, adding:

“Young people are frightened, their parents are frightened for young people. A lot of the motivation for carrying knives is a lot of young people thinking other young people are carrying knives. But if a knife is being carried anyway, it’s a danger.”

“We have to do everything we can to keep young people out of the criminal justice system.”

Interview by John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).


Mark Shelford (Conservative)

Head and shoulders photo of Mark Shelford.
Mark Shelford.

The man in charge of overseeing Avon and Somerset Police is urging voters to elect him for a second term so he can continue his “eight-year plan” for the police – and not vote for what he has warned will be “18 months of stagnation” under a new police and crime commissioner.

Mark Shelford was elected as Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner in 2021, and is standing for re-election to the role on 2nd May 2024 as the Conservative candidate. In his three years in the role, Mr Shelford said he had led “a complete leadership and culture change within the police”.

Mr Shelford said:

“I was a soldier for 32 years and I spent a lot of that time abroad working in different areas with different local police forces so it gave me appreciation of two things.”

“One, what good and bad policing looks like at the sharp end. But also different communities and their cultures, and how to be able to understand their cultures and support them, particularly when these cultures come into an alien environment in Britain.”

After his time in the armed forces, Mr Shelford was a councillor in Bath and North East Somerset and deputy leader of the council. He said: “I understand the local political arena.”

Mr Shelford said:

“My track record and everything is about keeping the community safe and focussing on the community.”

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service:

“We have recruited more than 1,600 police officers to give an uprise of 500 plus, one third going into CID and two thirds going into neighbourhoods.”

He said:

“I have bought a new police station in Bath. I have also bought a new police station in Minehead, and we have revamped police stations all over.”

In 2021, Avon and Somerset Police rolled out Operation Bluestone, a new way of handing rape cases putting the emphasis on the perpetrator not the victim which led to a 300 percent rise in rape cases reaching crown court. It is now being rolled out across the country as Operation Soretia. Mr Shelford said:

“Avon and Somerset led the world and particularly the UK in this change of culture around the victim and keeping the victims as part of it.”

He said that he had also worked with four other police and crime commissioners in the South West on Operation Scorpion, a major anti-drugs operation which he said made Avon and Somerset Police “the top performing force for drug disruptions in the country”.

It has also involved sharing intelligence about rural crime gangs. He said:

“This is already changing the landscape of rural crime. Within Avon and Somerset alone we have the lowest records of illegal hunting this year since anyone can remember.”

Mr Shelford said he was also focussing on preventing and reducing reoffending because 80 percent of people in prison have been to prison before. He warned that the two major things driving this were prison leavers not having anywhere “decent and safe” to live and not having a job.

In an effort to tackle this, he is chair of the award-winning Prisoners Building Homes Programme, which sees prisoners construct eco modular housing while in prison. He said:

“It teaches prisoners whilst in prison […] skills of building so when they leave prison they can get a job.”

The first six homes built through the programme are set to be installed in Bristol. He said: “They are really high quality.”

Mr Shelford said:

“Most important is that culture and leadership change which is showing so many dividends, and what is important is continuity is kept – and what we don’t want is a hiatus of a new PCC coming in and the whole program stopping, and a new police and crime plan coming, and it’ll be a year to make that police and crime plan work.”

“It will be 18 months of stagnation – while I’m three years into an eight year plan.”

Interview by John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

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