REGULAR readers will recall I have just returned to these shores following my two weeks in the sun.

In fact, I was in Spain, probably my favourite country in the world after Britain.

Now this may seem a strange thing to notice while on holiday but the number of police of various types was so obvious it became a subject of discussion.

The Guardia Civil was to be seen checking traffic every day while officers from the Policia Local were out and about all the time.

What struck me particularly was the contrast between this quite reassuring police presence and what feels to me is an absence of visible policing in this country.

I understand that police numbers have been reduced in the UK – and Cheshire has been no exception – and I also understand this has come about because of Government cutbacks following the banking crisis. I have never been a critic of our police – even when I have found myself on the wrong side of the law – and when I had a car accident last year, I had nothing but praise for the officers who attended and acted with the utmost courtesy and professionalism.

Having said that, I have recently driven several hundreds of miles on our motorways and can hardly remember seeing a police car during my travels. I am sure they would have responded quickly had there been an emergency but they didn’t seem to be doing routine motorway patrols.

I was under the impression Spain had been particularly hard hit by the recession, probably much harder than we were, but it appears the Spanish government has a different set of priorities to our Westminster lords and masters when it comes to maintaining the number of officers.

Sadly, two news items over the past couple of weeks have confirmed my worst fears. It seems that not only the visible presence of our police has reduced but cutbacks have also started to have a serious impact on the way police are able to fight crime.

The first news item related to plans to increase the penalty given to drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving, Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, said he is examining a recommendation by Britain’s most senior police officer for offenders caught making calls without a hands-free kit to be handed six points on their licence rather than the present three.

The tougher penalties would mean being banned from driving if caught twice in three years.

Now I can go along with this. People who use their phones to make calls or text while driving are a menace and deserve the full wrath of the law being rained down on them. And let’s face it, if you spend any length of time driving, you are almost guaranteed to see people on their phones.

Despite the fact it is against the law, drivers continue to use their phones because they know the likelihood of them being caught is remote, to say the least. You have to be seen doing it by a police officer.

They have to be caught first, and in a radio interview, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers welcomed the proposals for stiffer penalties but warned that enforcement would be difficult because of the reduction in the number of front line officers.

What, then, is the point of spending time legislating for tougher penalties when the average driver knows full well the chances of him being caught are slim?

But far more disturbing was the report last week that doctors, teachers, care workers and former police officers were among more than 600 suspected paedophiles arrested following a massive nationwide police operation.

The unprecedented investigation, involving every police force in the UK and coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), took six months to complete.

Those arrested had not previously been known to the police and while the police would not release details of how they were able to track down these people who were trading in obscene images of child abuse, it is clear it involved the NCA infiltrating the so-called ‘dark web’.

Now this is a triumph for the police and again is something to be rightly applauded.

But according to one commentator involved in child protection, at least 10,000 active paedophiles in this country are known to the police with a sordid hinterland of around 60,000 others suspected of being involved.

And why, you may ask, are these men (it’s nearly always men) not being hauled up before the courts and given the punishment they so richly deserve?

The answer is police simply do not have the resources and have to target their efforts on those considered to be the worst offenders.

As I said earlier, in no way do I blame the police. And I also realise that savings and efficiencies have to be made in times of recession but surely it is the hallmark of a civilised society that it has sufficient resources to protect and serve its citizens and perhaps we are all suffering a cut too far.

We need more bobbies on the beat and more specialist officers doing the high tech work that allows us all to sleep safely in our beds at night. Surely that is an essential prerequisite in a 21st century higly developed modern country.