13 September 1999
Shephard tackles rural crime

By FWi staff

FORMER agriculture minister Gillian Shephard has demanded more police funding for Norfolk, the East Anglian county reportedly hit by a rural crimewave.

Ms Shephard, who served as Conservative agriculture minister from 1993-4, is currently MP for south-west Norfolk and has a long association with the area.

Her constituency includes the village of Emneth, near Wisbech, where local farmer Tony Martin last month fatally shot Fred Barras, a 16-year-old suspected burglar.

Ms Shephards call for more money to fight crime comes following increased worries that local residents are losing faith in their police force, say local newspapers.

Norfolk police are currently the worst-funded in the country, according to Norfolk-Now, the website of the Eastern Daily Press and Evening News.

“The events at Emneth have shocked Norfolk and the nation,” Ms Shephard is reported as saying.

Local police chiefs estimate they need an extra 800 officers to cope with the demands of modern-day crime fighting, the website reports.

Mr Martin, who has been charged with murder, had to be kept in jail and then moved to a safe house, after police were unable to guarantee his safety.

He was returned to jail last week pending a request to change his bail conditions after asking to be moved to another safe house.

Judge David Mellor agreed to the request but Mr Martin is understood still to be in solitary confinement at Norwich Prison while his application is being processed.

Last week, the Rev Richard Harlow-Trigg urged 300 mourners at the funeral of suspected burglar Fred Barras urged not to seek revenge for his death.

The Eastern Daily Press has published an open letter to Home Secretary Jack Straw on behalf of rural communities backing the campaign for more rural police.

The move by the paper comes after more than 300 people packed a public meeting at Emneth Village Hall last week to vent their anger at recent events.