Very happy new year (if that's still allowed on 15 January...)
Although Parliament has only been back a week, it's been a remarkable few days.
I am absolutely delighted that last Tuesday evening the House of Commons voted to double the maximum sentence for stalking from five to ten years. This was the culmination of a sixteen-month campaign which I launched when I was first contacted in summer 2015 about the injustice that my constituent, a Cheltenham GP, had suffered at the hands of the criminal justice system.
Back in 2015 the judge who sentenced her stalker at Gloucester Crown Court made clear that he didn’t have the powers he needed to protect an victim whose life had been made a misery for an astonishing seven years.
When a police officer wrote to me about the case, I decided to do something about it. And after joining forces with the MP for Gloucester, Richard Graham, I set about doing so.
It has been a long slog. It has involved a debate in the House of Commons, publishing a detailed piece of research that we co-authored, questions in Parliament, my introduction of a Private Member’s Bill, several articles in the national media and countless meetings with MPs of all parties and ministers.
I am grateful to the many victims I have met who have spoken out, and to the charities like the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and our own Gloucestershire-based Hollie Gazzard Trust. All played their part, as indeed did the University of Gloucestershire, which has expertise in this field.
But above all, I want to pay tribute to my constituent, Dr Aston. It was her ordeal which triggered this campaign. She has shown astonishing bravery – reliving her suffering again and again. Her greatest wish I know is that future victims can receive the full measure of justice that was not available to her.
Now that will be precisely the result.
Thank you for reading this update.
Alex Chalk MP
PS. Please note that these fortnightly updates are intended to be no more than an overview. If you want an in-depth update on my various campaigns (from education funding, to the Air Balloon roundabout, to broadband etc) please do get in touch.
IN PARLIAMENT[NB: Parliament was in recess until Monday 9 January]
Stalking Campaign Success
Following Alex's sixteen-month campaign to improve protection for victims of stalking, the Government announced its decision to double the maximum sentenceREAD MORE HERE or watch Alex's speech HERE
The Home Office Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, praised Alex's campaign:
''My hon. Friends the Members for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and for Gloucester (Richard Graham) have been assiduous in pursuing this issue for some time and are to be much commended for their campaign, including the pursuit of a private Member’s Bill, on behalf of Dr Eleanor Aston, a Cheltenham general practitioner practising in Gloucester who was stalked by a former patient for seven years.''
Alex's campaign received wide coverage in the national and international media:
(Other) Questions/interventions in the House of Commons
Spoken out in the debate on NHS and Social Care Funding and called for A&E capacity at Cheltenham General to be 'bolstered and enhanced'READ MORE HERE
Praised the professionalism of staff working at the Crown Prosecution ServiceREAD MORE HERE
Taken part in a debate highlighting the importance of access to justice
Justice Select Committee News
Quizzed witnesses as part of Justice Select Committee inquiry into the 'Implications of Brexit for the Justice System'. The session focused on the impact on cooperation in fields of cross-border police investigations (EUROPOL and EUROJUST) as well as the European Arrest Warrant (extradition)
Francis FitzGibbon QC, Chair, Criminal Bar Association
Professor Tim Wilson, Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, Northumbria Law School
Michael Gray, on behalf of the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association
Delegated Legislation Committee Work
Scrutinised (and ultimately voted for) proposals under a statutory instrument to specify substances and products as drugs subject to temporary control under section 2A(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The substances and products specified were N-methyl-1-(thiophen-2-yl)propan-2-amine and related materials which are being misused as new psychoactive substances.
Held initial discussion with Education Minister, Nick Gibb, to raise concerns about officials' initial draft education funding formula for England
Backed the Open Doors campaign to protect Christians across the world subject to persecution
Joined Gloucestershire Constabulary for a ten-hour night-time shift (emergency response). Attended GRH A&E, suspected glassing, threatened suicide, pub fight
Held talks with the Education Cabinet Member at Gloucestershire County Council, representatives from the F40 campaign group, fellow Gloucestershire MPs and the Chair of Gloucestershire Schools' Forum to map out a plan to secure the best possible deal for Cheltenham pupils from the Government's new National Funding Formula
Met the Chair and Chief Executive of the local NHS Trust to receive a briefing on the winter pressures facing local health services and the ongoing Sustainability and Transformation Plan process
Stepped up his campaign for major investment in new cancer technology in Cheltenham. READ MORE HERE
Welcomed Cheltenham's share of the Government's new £50 million Homelessness Prevention Programme fund. READ MORE HERE
Attended part of a Cheltenham 'Brand Workshop' at UGlos (Park Campus) aimed at boosting Cheltenham's reputation as a tourist destination
Backed campaign by residents and local councillors to protect Cheltenham's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). READ MORE HERE
Met senior Stagecoach management in Cheltenham and urged them to redouble their efforts to minimise diesel air pollution in the town centre
Supported the launch of the 2017 Cheltenham Half Marathon fundraising campaign with Olympic rower, James Cracknell MBE and official charity partners, Sue Ryder and Winston's Wish. READ MORE HERE
Joined HRH The Prince of Wales to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Sue Ryder Hospice in Leckhampton
Visited residents at Morris Court in Hatherley for their Christmas Party
Volunteered at Cheltenham Open Door's Christmas shelter at St Luke's Church Hall
Held talks with the Highways Cabinet Member at Shire Hall regarding the campaign to secure improvements at M5 Junction 9
Officially opened new offices of defence procurement company, CDS, on Alstone Lane READ MORE HERE
Met representatives from Sustainable Homes to discuss the issues facing tenants and landlords
Addressed members of the Cheltenham Rotary Club
Met the local branch of the Nelson Trust to hear about their invaluable work assisting Cheltenham residents with alcohol, drug and other dependency issues
Visited Pate's and Balcarras schools to discuss the new National Funding Formula for education
Held talks with local broadband firm, Kaldien, to explore ways to assist the few remaining communities in Cheltenham still living with slow broadband
Held a constituency surgery
Q&A with members of the University of Gloucestershire Pro Bono Society at Park Campus
Welcomed a £271 million MOD deal to safeguard skilled jobs at local defence firms, GE Aviation and Pennant International. READ MORE HERE
IN THE MEDIA
Appeared on the BBC Midlands Politics Show, broadcast today (15 January 2017)
Received wide media coverage regarding his and Richard Graham MP's successsul stalking campaign:
Written two columns for the Gloucestershire Echo. You can read all of Alex's columns HERE
GROT SPOT UPDATE
Over the last two weeks, welcome progress has been made on two significant local 'grot spots':
A planning application has been submitted to Cheltenham Borough Council to replace the former Springbank Shopping Centre with new housing. The plans to transform the site follows Alex's long-running campaign to clean up this derelict eyesore
Remedial work has begun at the former Carlton Street post office to clean up the site after Cheltenham Borough Council agreed to write to the owners reminding them of their duty to respect this historic conservation area
Alex has also submitted the following question to the Government. The answer will be published on his website in due course:
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment has been made of the impact of the changes made to stamp duty on small-scale property development companies since its implementation in April 2016?
UPCOMING CONSTITUENCY SURGERIES
Alex will be holding a constituency surgery in January for residents who wish to raise any issues with him. Appointments can be booked in advance by calling Hannah Wright on 01242 210473 or emailing email@example.com
At 2am! Following a ten-hour shift with two great Gloucestershire Police emergency response officers
Being interviewed by BBC Points West following the positive news about the stalking campaign
Volunteering at the Cheltenham Open Door Christmas Shelter
Helping to welcome HRH The Prince of Wales at the Sue Ryder Hospice in Leckhampton
Supporting the Polish community at a festive celebration in Hesters Way
With James Cracknell and representatives from Winston's Wish and Sue Ryder at the launch of the 2017 Cheltenham Half Marathon fundraising campaign
At CDS' offices in Alstone Lane
Visiting the new Dunkerton cider plant near Dowdeswell reservoir
Visiting the excellent Emmaus shop in Henrietta Street
Backing the Open Doors campaign to highlight the persecution of Christians across the world