Knife crime and religious tolerance were both on the agenda when the cross-party campaign group West  Midlands Together met in Birmingham

Alison Cope, a campaigner against knife crime who is supported by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, spoke of the death of her son Josh who was stabbed through the heart.

She said new campaign groups were springing up every six  months - but they were not working together. Children as young as seven were being groomed and exploited by gangs, she said, and young people's preoccupation with social media and video games was fuelling the problem.

Meera Sonecha, from West Midlands Mayor's office, spoke of Andy Street's Faith Action Plan and his determination to be a mayor for every faith community. She said hate crime had affected many people and communities were fearful about expressing their religious identities.

She said the mayor wanted particularly to target hate crime on public transport and was looking at what could be done in respect of cameras and monitoring, and how to achieve better messaging on the subject.

The joint-founder of West Midlands together Anthea McIntyre MEP said: "Violence involving knives is the real curse of our younger generation and we need to do all we can to guide them in the correct way.  Alison's message is personal and powerful, it speaks directly to young people and it needs to be heard more widely.

"Meera made clear the mayor's commitment to building good community relations and countering hate crime.

Philip Seccombe, Police and Commissioner for Warwickshire, said: "Most important thing is to make our forces are representative of the community they represent - all communities and groups.  That is what will give groups confidence in us."

West Midlands together was founded by Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, and her Labour colleague Neena Gill to foster tolerance and understanding following a spike in hate crime in the wake of the EU referendum.

In a letter to local papers she said:

"Congratulations to Kathryn Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, Mayor Andy Street and Dame Caroline Spelman MP for looking to create Britain's 16th national park here in the West Midlands.

"What a perfect antidote that would be to the popular misconception of our conurbation as a grim, grimy and crowded place that is in the Premiership for manufacturing and commerce, but non-league for beauty and fresh air.

"In fact - as we all know - our region has some of the most beautiful urban and rural landscapes anywhere and they deserve to be recognised and appreciated more widely.

"This is an opportunity to rethink the parameters of what a national park has to be. It does not need to be a Lake District or Snowdonia
- endless acres of wild countryside. Instead it can be a patchwork of greenery and parkland adjoining and incorporating more built-up areas
- more accessible but equally good on the eye and suitable for outdoor enjoyment.

"Let us press ahead with this plan - not just because it is good for our economy, jobs and tourism - but because it will bring a much overdue correction to our public image."


Campaigning MEP Anthea McIntyre has condemned Iran's killing of prisoner Mohammad Salas, executed in defiance of an 11th hour plea made by international parliamentarians.
 
She said: "The killing of Mr Salas marks a black day for justice, international rule of law and human rights."
 
The authorities in Tehran ordered the widely-condemned death sentence on Mr Salas to be carried out, just as a multi-party and cross-national group of MEPs was making a last-ditch plea for a stay of execution.
 
The Iranian authorities have spurned all previous appeals for the withdrawal of the death sentence and a retrial for Mr Salas.
 
Supporters say Mr Salas, a Gonabi Dervish, was wrongly convicted of the murder of three police officers when the case against him remained incomplete and unsubstantiated. Eyewitness and photographic evidence establishing his innocence was ignored by the court, while an alleged confession was extracted under duress.

He was sentenced to death by the Iranian Supreme Court in April.
 
A letter making a final plea to Tehran to halt the execution at the weekend was signed by 47 MEPs from 19 Member States and six political groups.
 
After learning of his death today Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: "Mr Salas was a victim of religious persecution and suffered a blatant mistrial.
 
"He was considered by the Iranian state to be a religious enemy and he suffered a politically-motivated execution because of politics and his faith.
 
"We did all we could to stop the execution but the Iranian regime was set on it. They should now face the gravest condemnation from the EU leadership and the international community as a whole."

 

Campaigning MEP Anthea McIntyre is mounting a last-ditch effort to save an innocent man condemned to death in Iran.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, is still hoping she and a group of parliamentary colleagues can win a stay of execution and a retrial for Mohammad Salas.

The Iranian authorities have spurned all previous appeals for the withdrawal of a death sentence on Mr Salas and have said he will be executed after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this weekend.

Supporters say Mr Salas, a Gonabi Dervish, was wrongly convicted of the murder of three police officers when the case against him remained incomplete and unsubstantiated. Eyewitness and photographic evidence establishing his innocence was ignored by the court, while an alleged confession was extracted under duress.

He was sentenced to death by the Iranian Supreme Court in April.

With possibly only hours to go before the sentence is implemented, Miss McIntyre has circulated a letter making a final plea to Tehran to halt the execution.

It has already been signed by 47 MEPs from 19 Member States and six political groups.
 
Miss McIntyre said: "This is a victim of religious persecution who has been subjected to a flagrant mis-trial.
 
"The Iranian authorities are shaping up to follow a politically-motivated trial with a politically-motivated execution and it could now happen at any time.
 
"We are doing all we can to stop the execution get the authorities to grant him a fair hearing - but things are now desperate."

West Midlands MEP Anthea was at the Royal Three Counties Show today to canvass opinion on trading relationships between farmers and retailers.

Miss McIntyre is lead negotiator for her political group, the European Conservatives and Reformists, for proposed EU legislation on unfair trading practices by major food retailers.

She has a stall at the show, held at the show ground in Great Malvern, and on Friday spoke to a range of farmers, growers, processors and marketers, to hear their views on retailers’ purchasing operations. 

Miss McIntyre, Conservative Agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, also held a reception to thank figures from farming, academia, conservation, research and engineering who have helped in her two key projects: promoting the application of advanced technology in agriculture, and campaigning for a science-based approach to the regulation of pesticides and herbicides.

She said: “The Royal Three Counties is a fantastic show and a great celebration of agriculture and out rural way of life. It also gives me an opportunity to thank all the people we have worked with over the year.

“It was good to hear from farmers themselves what they think of the deal they get from the major retailers.

“In the UK we have the Grocery Code Adjudicator - a kind of mediator or referee - and that has made a big difference to the way farmers and growers are treated by the big 10 supermarkets.

“I am using the show as an opportunity for some unofficial consultation on the changes or improvements growers would like to see in the Adjudicator’s powers and responsibilities.

“I think our UK system could provide a model for the EU’s new framework so I am keen to hear about its strengths and any weaknesses.”