A member of a local militia guards remnants of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Photo: Getty
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David Cameron calls for more sanctions on Russia after the MH17 crash

The PM has spoken to Putin about Russia's role in the Malaysian Airlines crash, and is urging his EU allies to impose harsher sanctions on Russia.

Over the weekend, both Britain and the US decided it was highly likely the Malaysian Airlines flight that crashed in east Ukraine was brought down by pro-Russian separatists.

In light of this, David Cameron spoke to the Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday evening, urging him to allow international access to the site of the crash. At present, the rebels controlling the area are not allowing proper access to the crash site, and they also removed the plane’s black boxes, which they have since agreed to hand over.

Cameron made clear to Putin that the bringing down of the flight was “totally unacceptable” and a source told the Mail that he also said to the Russian President: “Ten of my citizens have just been killed in a plane brought down by a missile fired by Russian separatists. I have been asking to speak to you since this happened. You clearly can play a role in exerting influence on the separatists to grant us access to the site.”

The PM has also been discussing stronger sanctions on Russia with his allies in the EU. The French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both agreed with the PM that the main priority is to gain unfettered access to the site to recover victims, but have also discussed a new, harsher approach to Russia by way of sanctions.

However, the BBC is reporting a “lack of appetite” among EU countries for expanding existing sanctions on Russia, which is apparently frustrating Downing Street.

Cameron will make a statement to the Commons later today. He's good at these kind of statesmanlike addresses, and his enthusiasm for harsher sanctions made clear by No 10 is a decisive move in the right direction. However, there's only so much he can do in this situation without his EU allies wholeheartedly on-side. Germany is more reticent about sanctions because of its reliance on Russian gas, and also its position as Russia's biggest European trading partner.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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