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North Yorkshire residents, including University of York students registered to vote in the region, will go to the polls tomorrow to vote for their next Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC).
The by-election is being held after the former PFCC for North Yorkshire, Philip Allott, resigned following controversial comments he made about the need for women to know “when they can be arrested and when they can't be arrested.”
Allott’s comments came shortly after the conviction of Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens for the false arrest and murder of Sarah Everard.
PFCCs are elected officials who oversee policing and fire services in their local region.
In tomorrow’s by-election, there will be candidates from the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrat Party, Women’s Equality Party, as well as an independent candidate.
The Labour Party’s North Yorkshire PFCC candidate, student paramedic Emma Scott-Spivey, was asked what her main priorities would be if she is duly elected as the commissioner on Thursday.
Scott-Spivey stated: “Given the pivotal issue of this by-election, the main point has got to be ending violence against women and girls."
"We call it violence against women and girls because that is who it disproportionately affects but that is not to say that any measures put in place wouldn’t also safeguard men. The gravity of the situation hasn’t hit home with the people who have previously held public office, as demonstrated by Philip Allott’s comments.”
With the recent student-led ‘Girls Night In’ movement raising awareness about the increasing incidents of spiking in York and nationally, Nouse asked Scott-Spivey how she would effectively address the issue.
Scott-Spivey said: “It comes down to two things. Firstly, listening to people’s concerns. If people feel empowered to talk about their experiences then they can bestow an element of hindsight that others may not have and they can say the ways that what happened can be prevented."
“Secondly, I think we need to take the issue more seriously. We are reluctant to talk about these issues due to the fear of making them real, so we have to talk about it.”
The last North Yorkshire PFCC election in May recorded a low turnout of 25.4 percent. Traditionally, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner elections do not attract a large amount of interest from the electorate and the turnout across the country has been historically low ever since the role was introduced by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
Scott-Spivey responded to the issue of low turnout by saying that “I would rather someone went out and voted against me than not vote at all because we have democratic choice. That is something we are incredibly lucky to have."
“The only way that we are going to ensure that no one is left behind is by ensuring that no one is left unheard.”
In terms of making herself available to students, Scott-Spivey said that it is “important to be seen” and promised to “speak to students, victim support groups and charitable organisations.”
With the most recent ONS figures showing that 61,158 rapes were recorded across England and Wales in the 12 months to June, an increase of 10 percent from 55,779 the year before, Nouse asked Scott-Spivey how she would plan to reduce this rising number.
Scott-Spivey stated: “I am a survivor myself and it is something that I am really passionate about because a lot of people don’t come forward as they see a criminal justice system which doesn’t support or protect them."
“For myself, I never reported because I knew that the Crown Prosecution Service works on the basis that they will only take on cases which they feel they can win. I think that what we need to do is to reassure survivors and victims that they can come forward.”
Keith Tordoff, the independent candidate, told Nouse that he is committed to “safer streets for all, especially for women and girls."
“As an independent, I’m not fighting for a political party. I’m fighting for everyone, whether they’ve got any political allegiance or not.”
“I’ve got initiatives, I’ve got vision, and I’ve got a manifesto ready to deliver that. All the other candidates want to have political talking shops, and nothing will get done.”
Tordoff, who served as a police officer in Leeds for 20 years, believes that students in particular have a stake in Thursday’s by-election.
“Students have a history of bringing about change through protesting and challenging, and so students should be engaged in this election,” he said.
“What we need from students is to challenge the Government, challenge MPs, and - if I’m elected - to challenge me. That starts with going out to vote tomorrow.”
Nouse reached out to Zoe Metcalfe (Conservative Party candidate), James Barker (Liberal Democrat candidate) and Hannah Barham-Brown (Women’s Equality Party candidate). They are yet to respond to requests for an interview.
Students registered to vote at their York or Hull address can vote at their closest polling station.