Lancaster MP tells of frightening ordeal as Commons debates police cuts

MP Cat Smith
MP Cat Smith

The MP for Lancaster has told the House of Commons about how a policeman helped her when she was followed home by a stranger at night.

Cat Smith spoke at a debate about proposed police cuts and told how the constable drove her home safely after the man followed her from Lancaster train station.

Ms Smith said her ordeal showed that ‘bobbies on the beat’ are vital, yet their numbers could be slashed if government police cuts get the green light.

The Labour MP, also Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said during yesterday’s debate: “I got the last train from Preston into Lancaster which arrived at about half past 11 at night and I made the short 10 minute walk journey home.

“When I left the train station there was obviously a huge crowd of people travelling away from the station with me and slowly people filtered off in different directions until I became very conscious there was just one person following suspiciously closely behind me and there was an instinct that kicked in and I made the decision to cross the road.

“This man crossed the road after I crossed the road and I thought ‘well, you know, maybe I am making it up, maybe it is all in my head’.

“I crossed back on to the original side I had been on and he crossed back with me.

“That moment when you realise that you are not making this up, that you, at half past 11 at night in your home city, are being followed home by a strange man is a terrifying moment that can happen to any one of us.”

Ms Smith said she was “very fortunate” to come across a police constable who was attending an incident and was on the beat on the night of July 24 2013.

She explained the situation and the constable put Ms Smith in the back of his police car and made sure she got home safely.

The constable spoke to the man who admitted he had been following Ms Smith and had wanted to find out where she lived because he “liked the way I look”.

Ms Smith told MPs: “These police cuts, this loss of community policing will have a real impact on real people’s lives.

“So when my chief constable in Lancashire Steve Finnigan says that these cuts could potentially see Lancashire be a blue light-only service that terrifies me as a woman.

“And when some councils because of the cuts are talking about switching off street lights at night that makes me question as a woman whether or not I can walk home safely from work in an evening.”

She urged the Government to reconsider its spending plans.

“This will impact on women’s lives and this will make women scared to go out at night,” she said.

Last month, Steve Finnigan said Lancashire Police will “not be viable” after 2020 if the level of cuts is as high as feared.

Meanwhile David Morris, MP for Morecambe, has said fears over proposed police cuts are “scaremongering”.

Speaking in his weekly column in our newspapers, he said: “I have been reassuring people the claims being made are nothing more than speculation, and I am appalled at the scaremongering and blatant electioneering by our current Police and Crime Commissioner (Clive Grunshaw).

“Claims are being made about catastrophic funding cuts to our force based on a formula currently in consultation, and a funding figure which no-one will have sight of until the comprehensive spending review reports at the end of November.

“The new formula, which is only in a draft stage, has been created because of sustained pressure from police forces across the country to create a formula which is fair and reflects the needs and demographics of each force. Even though back room numbers have been cut over the last five years, crime in our area has fallen by 11% and Lancashire has been rated as an outstanding force only last week.

“If, when the correct funding formula, is released I feel the level of funding is inappropriate for our force, I will campaign to ensure our area is protected.”