Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner elections: Meet the candidates

Cleo Lake (left), John Smith (top centre), Mark Shelford (top right), Heather Shearer (bottom centre) and Kerry Barker (bottom right).
Cleo Lake (left), John Smith (top centre), Mark Shelford (top right), Heather Shearer (bottom centre) and Kerry Barker (bottom right).

People in Avon and Somerset will go to the polls in May to vote for the next police and crime commissioner for the area.

The independent incumbent Sue Mountstevens is stepping down from the £86,000 role, having described her nine years’ service as a privilege.

The race is on to replace her and five candidates have announced they are standing for election so far.Whoever is successful will be tasked with holding Avon and Somerset Police to account and setting its budget and priorities.

These are the candidates...

Kerry Barker – Labour

Kerry Barker has more than 50 years of experience working in criminal justice, as a justices' clerk, running Magistrates' courts and as a barrister in Bristol.

He says he is standing because policing is a vital public service and political decisions have a major impact on the quality of policing.

He said his priorities will be to strengthen community policing with more officers who live and work in the areas they are responsible for. He also wants to bring back specialist detective teams.

He said: "I'd bring back an emphasis on local teams, I'd stop the closure of police stations and I would also recreate the specialist teams of detectives - things like burglary squads, sexual assault teams, child abuse teams - because we need those specialisms to tackle the growing levels of very serious crime."

Cleo Lake – Green

Green candidate Cleo Lake has been a Bristol City councillor since 2015 and has sat on the Avon Fire authority since 2017. She also served as the Lord Mayor of Bristol in 2018/19 and is engaged in creative, community work across the region.

She says her priorities would be to build trust in the police, prevent crime and ensure the public gets "value for money" policing.

She told ITV News West Country balancing the needs of people in rural Somerset with those in urban Bristol will be a focus for her.

She said: "Most people would be concerned with internet fraud for example, perhaps road safety and domestic violence.

"There are going to be other issues that are more pertinent to different communities and it's having that ability to speak for and communicate with those communities and I enjoy meeting people. I want to be that public face to usher in change... and it's a very diverse region."

Heather Shearer – Liberal Democrat

Liberal Democrat candidate Heather Shearer is a councillor in Somerset and is vice chair of the police and crime panel, which monitors the work of the PCC.

She said she wants to prioritise increasing prosecutions of burglars, thieves and scammers, ensure the force keeps its promise of ‘inclusivity and diversity in recruitment’ and ‘equality in policing’ and make sure community teams are properly resourced.

She sees the role as beefing up neighbourhood teams and working with others and told ITV News West Country: "The community police can actually be embedded in their communities.

"I would also want to focus more on prevention and early intervention by working with partners across the health sector and social sector, education, everything to bring people together.

"Another thing I'd really like to focus on... is the poor rate of prosecutions that are brought - both for the very violent and horrendous crimes of domestic violence, serious sexual assault, serious crimes. They aren't getting the kind of prosecutions they need to get, the cases aren't being brought."

Mark Shelford – Conservative

Tory candidate Mark Shelford is a former military man, having been a British Army officer for 32 years.

He has also spent time on the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Panel, which monitors the work of the PCC and was the Deputy Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council.

He says his priority will be to increase visible policing and work with communities to make them more resistant to crime. He also wants to rebuild morale on the frontline and says officers need to spend less time behind a desk.

He told ITV News West Country: "One things I want to do is to make sure we can get more police out on the street by reducing the administration they have to do at the moment.

"A lot of that administration is simple paperwork. For example if somebody goes into a custody cell for the night there are at least 12 forms they need to fill in, which takes a significant amount of time. Most of that information is the same on each form and so we want to look at that."

John Smith – Independent

John Smith has worked for PCC Sue Mountstevens for eight years leading her team and has been the deputy police and crime commissioner for a year.

He says he is standing because he is dedicated to protecting the safety of everyone in Avon and Somerset and he will prioritise crime reduction if he is elected.He said he wants to tackle knife and drug crime, prevent fraud and cyber crime, combat antisocial behaviour, catch burglars and address rural crime.

He told ITV News West Country: "I think it's a real advantage to be independent when doing this role.

"When Government is doing the right thing, it is the easiest thing in the world - as we have done around things like the violence reduction work - to agree with them and support them. But when they aren't, and when we feel like they are not making the right decisions for local people here, we can push back.

"If you're in the same party, or even if you're in the different party, I think it is more difficult to either disagree with the party if you're part of it or actually to be taken seriously in opposing it."

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