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OBITUARY: Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire’s first police and crime commissioner

Sir Graham was proud of his achievements which included the setting up of the county’s first victims’ hub

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Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire’s first police and crime commissioner, has died. A family statement said today that Sir Graham “died peacefully on 19th January 2024 aged 81, following a short illness having been cared for at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge”.

As police and crime commissioner from 2012-16, Sir Graham set the tone and character of the role before deciding not to seek a second term.

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“This is a very demanding role and one which I do not feel I can commit myself to for another four years,” he said, paving the way for Jason Ablewhite, who held the post until 2019 when he was forced to quit following an investigation into online messages exchanged with a female member of the public.

One of the first actions of Sir Graham after his election was to set up his office – not at police headquarters as was expected but at Cambourne.

It was an issue that was to attract early headlines, and at a meeting in Wisbech he was tackled abruptly by a Cambridge blogger about the issue.

“You’ve spent a lot of money doing that by putting your office in Cambourne,” was one question fired at him.

But Sir Graham, a former Parliamentary aide to Prime Minister John Major and a successful businessman, was having none of it.

He insisted his office had been value for money and quizzed as to why he didn’t work from police headquarters replied: “The fact that my office and I are not in police headquarters is that I have to hold them to account.

Sir Graham Bright (right) congratulating his successor Jason Ablewhite as police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire PHOTO: Terry Harris

Sir Graham Bright (right) congratulating his successor Jason Ablewhite as police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire PHOTO: Terry Harris

“If you’re holding them to account you can’t do that and also be having coffee with them in the canteen and walking around the same building. It’s absolutely essential and I wasn’t the only commissioner to do that, and I think that it’s right that we’ve done it.”

Sir Graham was proud of his achievements in Cambridgeshire, which included the setting up of the county’s first victims’ hub which had more than 10,000 victims referred to it and more than 6,000 people directly supported.

He was also keen to support young people through a youth fund, created a volunteer police cadet scheme and did much work to support those with mental health issues.

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Of his decision not to stand for a second term – which surprised many of his Conservative colleagues – he said: “This is an immensely satisfying role and I have relished the challenges posed by the changes we have had to make.

“I will leave office in May 2016 with the constabulary in a strong position and with many long-term programmes underway that will ensure a strong financial and operational footing in the future.

“While I will not be putting my feet up I am looking forward to spending more time with my wife and continuing to use my experience to provide advice and guidance to some of the other organisations I support.”

His family said today: “We would like to thank all the dedicated doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and other staff who looked after him during this time.

“During his political career which spanned over 50 years, from his time as a councillor to being a member of parliament and subsequently police and crime commissioner between 2012 and 2016, he was dedicated to public service and to making a difference to the lives of his constituents and those he worked with.”

Current police and crime commissioner, Darryl Preston said: “Sir Graham set the bar for how future commissioners would carry out the role, following their introduction in 2012.

“He was passionate about keeping people safe and introduced a number of innovative projects such as working with HMP Peterborough to help support people from reoffending and introducing a police cadets scheme to encourage young people into the profession. The partnerships he set up during his time in office remain to this day.

“Sir Graham was the ultimate public servant. He will be sadly missed.”

Former Chief Constable, Alec Wood QPM added: “Sir Graham was a dedicated and committed public servant.

“As police and crime commissioner, he helped create the country’s first victims’ hub and his determination to help young people was evident in the creation of the Cambridgeshire police cadets scheme as well as through a number of initiatives to divert young people from crime.”

As an MP Sir Graham represented Luton East/South from 1979 to 1997 and became parliamentary private secretary to Prime Minister John Major.

Sir Graham started his political career in Essex as a member of Thurrock Borough Council in 1965, and then served on Essex County Council 1967-70.

Sir Graham leaves behind his wife, Lady Valerie and son, Rupert.

 

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