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“We don’t need more promises, we need joined-up thinking”, says Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate

June 3, 2020 7:28 PM

Kate Smith PCC Candidate

Kate Smith, the Lib Dem Policing spokesperson for Derbyshire, has hit out at Government populism and muddled thinking on the justice system. New evidence from respected think-tank the Institute for Government shows there has been no real thinking about the effects of recruiting extra Police. The IfG's Report looks at the effects on England and Wales' system of two important factors: the Tories' Manifesto commitment to provide 20,000 more Police officers, and the Coronavirus crisis.

Says Kate, "The Conservatives' dog-whistle rhetoric, promising 20,000 more Police, is fine as far as it goes, but they haven't considered the full costs of the knock-ons." To quote the conclusion:

"The impact of more Police officers on the rest of the criminal justice system could be substantial … demand on the Crown court would rise to its highest level since at least 2000 and the prison population would reach nearly 90,000, its highest ever level. It is not clear how the Government will be able to safely house this number of prisoners, given its existing plans and the slow speed at which previous Governments have been able to build prison places … clearing the court case backlog could cost hundreds of millions on top."

Adds Kate: "This Report should be taken seriously by the Johnson Government. If additional plans and budgets are not made urgently, the worst-case scenario will be even lower conviction rates, far longer court case backlogs and prison riots like those seen in northern Italy in March 2020."

NOTES

(a) The authors of the report (Pope, Davies and Guerin) model in clearheaded detail, and are to be congratulated. The key measure "average charging rate per officer" has been markedly lowered by recent Police budget cuts and is currently at about 3.3 per year; they estimate realistically that any increase in charging resulting from additional officers would be gradual but would certainly generate more cases for the courts (already reeling from a fall of 18 % in real-terms resourcing) to process.

(b) They also say that if case-complexity goes on increasing at the same rate as over the last 5 years, demand on courts will rise by an extra 16 % by 2023-4 even without Coronavirus or more Police.

(c) The document does not deal with knock-ons for the Probation system, a shame since this too has its problems and is often the Cinderella service. Nor does it take the effects of Brexit (for example, the loss to the UK of the European Arrest Warrant) into account. Perhaps the Institute is preparing work on both these points separately; that would be welcome.

(d) For more information, contact Kate Smith at katesmithlibdem@gmail.com