‘Arrogant and dismissive’: Tories failed to consult police on new plan for tackling crime

Exclusive: Anger as media sent details of ‘beating crime plan’ before country’s most senior police officers

<p>Boris Johnson and his home secretary, Priti Patel, at Surrey Police headquarters on Tuesday</p>

Boris Johnson and his home secretary, Priti Patel, at Surrey Police headquarters on Tuesday

Britain’s most senior police officers were not consulted about Boris Johnson’s new plan to “beat crime” – or even aware it was being drawn up, The Independent can reveal.

The measures, which the prime minister unveiled on Tuesday, include electronic tags on burglars, longer sentences for some crimes, and an extension of controversial blanket stop-and-search powers.

But police bodies and victims’ advocates say they were not involved in the formulation of the “beating crime plan”, and were only sent the full details on Tuesday – a day after it had been distributed to members of the media.

The 50-page document is believed to have been written by central government in a matter of days, and contains some measures that had not been requested by criminal justice agencies or experts.

Anger is also growing among rank-and-file police officers, who lashed out at government “gimmicks” days after a vote of no confidence in the home secretary, Priti Patel, over a pay freeze.

Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), which represents the country's most senior officers, said on Tuesday: “We received the plan today and will now be reviewing it carefully to understand how we deliver it operationally.”

He said it appeared to contain a mix of issues where police had previously engaged with the government and “some new ideas”.

Neither the NPCC, the Police Federation, the Police Superintendents’ Association nor the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners were formally consulted on the plan.

Police chiefs were first informed of its existence, but not its full contents, in a briefing with the policing minister Kit Malthouse on Monday evening.

The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, told The Independent: “This just goes to show how out of touch, arrogant and dismissive of policing this Conservative government are. Little wonder that the plan itself is paper-thin and contains nothing new.

“To not even consult officers on a plan for policing is ridiculous – perhaps they were worried about picking up the phone after the insulting zero per cent pay award offered this week.”

Boris Johnson says stop and search policy is 'kind and loving'

In a letter delivered by hand to Downing Street on Tuesday afternoon, the Police Federation said its 130,000 members were “sick of gimmicks and government contempt for police”.

“Just this weekend, we found out through a Sunday newspaper column about a new so-called beating crime plan,” said the letter to the prime minister.

“We don’t need old ideas presented as new. We need genuine investment for the whole of the criminal justice system and genuine consultation over new ideas. Without that, this is just another ill-thought-out initiative.”

Senior officers said many measures in the plan, including making the contact details of neighbourhood police officers available, were already in place, and money pledged for violence reduction units had already been spent.

The £31m expansion of a project to reduce offending driven by drug addiction had been requested by senior police officers, but a controversial expansion of stop-and-search powers was not. When asked why a consultation had not taken place, the Home Office claimed it had been “talking to” the NPCC, senior officers and the National Crime Agency about the plan since late May.

The government’s plan will relax the conditions needed for police to stop people without suspicion – a practice that critics say is ineffective and racially disproportionate – although the results of a 2019 pilot of the changes have never been published.

Senior police officers, including the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, have been vocal in their support of “intelligence-led” stop and search, but the section 60 powers being expanded allow anyone in a designated area to be searched if there are fears of violence.

The plan also promises “league tables” for the time that local forces take to answer 101 and 999 calls, but critics have questioned how useful the measure would be in judging the quality of police responses.

In a foreword to the plan, Ms Patel and the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, hailed it as the government’s “blueprint for cutting crime, increasing confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole and putting victims first”.

However, victims’ advocates said they had not been consulted ahead of the document’s publication.

Claire Waxman, the victims’ commissioner for London, said the proposals showed a “disappointing lack of commitment to victims” and would not ensure they receive justice.

“Despite referencing victims over 100 times throughout this plan, there is very little of substance that will actually lead to an improved journey through the justice system,” she said.

“How can we plan to send a higher volume of people through the system when the length of time for investigations, charging decisions and court dates are at an all-time high?”

Downing Street did not answer The Independent’s questions on allegations that the plan was drawn up in a matter of days without consultation with police, but insisted it contained new measures and a “fresh commitment to the country, as we build back from the pandemic, to have less crime, fewer victims and a safer society”.

The Home Office said: “Working hand in hand with the police has been a cornerstone of this government’s plans to deliver less crime, fewer victims and a safer society. Over the past two years, we have been working with the police to tackle homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime.”

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