Police at sea are vital in fight against marine crime

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Even the most land-locked Whitehall mandarin must have some geographical knowledge of this country.

If not, a quick look at a map would confirm that Hampshire is on the south coast of England.

The clue here is the word ‘coast’.

Perhaps he or she will have heard of Portsmouth – the home of the Royal Navy. Maybe Southampton will ring a few bells – the UK’s number one vehicle handling port, Europe’s leading turnaround cruise port and the UK’s most productive container port.

Surely they might have stumbled across the words ‘Cowes Week’, the world’s most famous sailing regatta. All of them fall within the patch covered by Hampshire Constabulary.

Let us not forget too the trillions of pounds worth of yachts and other craft moored everywhere from Hayling Island to Lymington, Gunwharf Quays to Hamble. We might take our proximity to the sea for granted, but our region’s economy is kept alfoat by it – to coin a phrase.

So when we discover the Hampshire (and Isle of Wight) force is about to lose all government funding for its vital £1m-a-year marine unit, we are staggered by its short-sightedness and niggardly attitude – a stance that cut could well sink the unit

Old Portsmouth’s sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, whose Clipper Race fleet is based at Gosport, is spot on when he says the unit is the marine community’s equivalent of bobbies on the beat.

And when he says: ‘With so many boats in the water in the area, having a police presence on the water is valuable,’ he is probably understating the case.

We call on the Home Office to think again.

Hampshire without its ‘boys on the blue’ is unthinkable.