Sussex’s readiness for nerve agent attack on agenda

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Following a nerve agent attack in Salisbury top police officers in Sussex are due to be questioned about how prepared the county is to cope with a similar attack.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a bench in the Wiltshire city on March 4 and are still critically ill in hospital.

The UK Government has confirmed the pair were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne is due to use her next monthly scrutiny meeting to ask top officers if the county is prepared to respond to an attack similar to the one in Salisbury.

The performance and accountability meeting starts at 9am on Friday (March 23) and will be webcast live online.

Mrs Bourne said: “Following the shocking news of the recent Salisbury nerve agent attack, I want to know how confident Sussex Police – and the Sussex Resilience Forum – is that the county is prepared and rehearsed to respond to any such attack.

“I will also be asking what learning the police are taking from the situation in Wiltshire, particularly around the management of public health concerns.”

The Sussex Resilience Forum is a partnership whose members have statutory responsibilities under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to work together to prepare, respond to and recover from emergencies and major incidents.

Mrs Bourne added: “Recent water shortages have also recently affected many parts of Sussex and I will be seeking assurances that, in the event of any emergency situation, Sussex Police and other local public services are working effectively together to keep Sussex safe.”

Other topics due to be discussed at the PAM include:

• How anti social behaviour is being dealt with through the new local policing model

• Call handling times to 101, the police non-emergency number

• Outstanding police warrants

• Missing sex offenders

• How Sussex Police is supporting national crime prevention campaigns including Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day and ‘Action Counters Terrorism’.

Mrs Bourne said: “Residents, quite rightly, want to know how the money they contribute through their Council Tax for policing is being spent.

“The chief constable [Giles York] has told me that this increased investment in 2018/19 will support a preventative police presence in our local communities and ensure the force is accessible when people need it. That is why I will be asking Mr York how community concerns such as anti social behaviour, public protection and police call handling times are being addressed effectively.”