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Revealed: Assault, robbery and blackmail among crimes reported in parliament | Politics News

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Crimes reported in parliament have soared by nearly 50% in the last two years, with offences including assault, robbery, blackmail and drug possession, Sky News can reveal.

A total of 578 crimes were reported on the parliamentary estate in Westminster between 2016 and 2018, according to figures released by the Metropolitan Police under the Freedom of Information Act.

They included a sharp rise in threatening letters being received amid fears MPs are being increasingly targeted due to their beliefs on Brexit.

Number of crimes reported on parliamentary estate

There were 101 reports of letters being sent with the intent to cause distress in 2018 – more than double the figure for 2016 (39) and up from 72 reports in 2017.

In total, 236 crimes were reported on the parliamentary estate in 2018, a 32% rise on 2017 (179 reports) and a 45% increase on 2016 (163 reports).

Offences last year included six reports of common assault, two reports of causing actual bodily harm, one report of blackmail, one report of cocaine possession, two reports of cannabis possession and one report of drunk and disorderly behaviour.

After allegations of sexual harassment and bullying rocked Westminster in 2017, the Metropolitan Police said it received four reports of harassment in 2018, four in 2017 and three in 2016.

There were also four reports of robbery of personal property in 2017 and another in 2016.

Other notable crimes included a report of false imprisonment in 2016, one report of stalking in 2017 and one report of outraging public decency in 2018.

MPs debating Brexit. Pic: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy
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There are fears MPs are being increasingly targeted due to their beliefs on Brexit

There was one report of murder following the death of PC Keith Palmer who was killed in the 2017 Westminster terror attack.

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, who was the victim of a campaign of online harassment by a man who was later jailed, told Sky News it was “heartbreaking” to receive abuse and it had worsened since the Brexit vote.

“I’m sure this high spike is linked with the Brexit issue which has been very toxic,” she said.

“I mean our post bags and emails… we’re constantly being told, you’re not following the will of the people, you’re being traitors.

“I’ll take these people on, they’re bullies – that’s all they are. They’re bullies and I’m not going to let them intimidate me, and I’m not going to let them change the way I live my life.”

Sky News sent a freedom of information request to the Metropolitan Police on 1 March asking for details of crimes reported on the parliamentary estate since 2016.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the force should have answered within 20 working days but it delayed issuing a response for three months.

It eventually answered the request on 27 June after the Information Commissioner’s Office warned the force risked being held in contempt of court if it continued to fail to respond.

Reports of letters sent to cause distress in parliament

Earlier this year, more than 50 MPs wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to express their “serious concerns” about the “deteriorating public order and security situation” outside parliament.

The letter came after Tory MP Anna Soubry, a prominent Remain campaigner, was branded a “Nazi” by protesters during live TV interviews.

A cross-party group of at least 55 MPs signed the formal letter to Cressida Dick in January criticising a “lack of co-ordination” in the response from the police and appropriate authorities despite assurances that incidents would be dealt with.

The parliamentary estate includes the Palace of Westminster, where the Houses of Parliament are located, and other properties such as Portcullis House and the Norman Shaw Buildings, which contain office spaces for MPs and their staff.

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