Crime clampdown: PM pledges tougher stop and search powers and more prison places

Extended stop and search powers, tougher sentences and more prison places are among the number of pledges Boris Johnson has made as he rolls out a tough government line on crime. 

The prime minister has announced £2.5bn will be invested into creating 10,000 new prison places.

Powers to stop and search will be extended to cover an additional 8,000 officers in England and Wales in a bid to tackle the continuing knife crime crisis.

His pledge comes just days after a police officer was stabbed in the head with a machete in east London.

Mr Johnson has previously said he intends to recruit another 20,000 police officers over the next three years.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the PM said: “We need to come down hard on crime. That means coming down hard on criminals.”

He added: “I want the criminals to be afraid – not the public.”

This is the second time this year that stop and search powers have been extended.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Sunday that all police forces across the country will have the power to stop and search anyone in a designated area, without needing reasonable grounds for suspicion, if they think there is a threat of serious violence.

The controversial move, which was piloted in March across seven forces in areas with high knife crime, means authorisation from a senior officer is no longer needed and can be conducted when officers think serious violence “may” occur. Previously, they had to feel it “will” occur.

“Stop and search works. We hear again and again that our police need to be empowered. And as we’re recruiting 20,000 more police officers we need them to be out making sure that those who want to do harm are prevented from doing harm,” Ms Patel said.

Mr Johnson acknowledged in his newspaper article that the move is controversial, but said he believed parents of those children most at risk of getting caught up in knife crime would support it.

Stop and search numbers have more than doubled in the last two years. Data from eight of the UK’s largest forces shows that the use of stop and search doubled from 15,557 instances in March 2017 to 33,022 in March 2019.

Rights groups say the tactic disproportionately targets young, black men.

Detective Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock, national lead on stop and search, explained the need for expanded powers.

“We’re seeing violence of some sort or another every day, all over the country. And the ability for officers to react quickly when that has happened, and use the powers available to them without needing to get any additional authority or top cover, so that they can quickly either find the people who have committed the crime or who may have weapons in response to that crime, is really important.”

Commenting on Britain’s prisons, the prime minister said investment was “long overdue”.

He said: “When the police catch a violent criminal, it is vital they get the sentence they deserve. At present there are too many serious violent or sexual offenders who are coming out of prison long before they should.

“In the last five years, we have seen literally hundreds of convicted rapists who have come out of prison commit another sexual offence… This cannot go on. I am afraid that as a society we have no choice but to insist on tougher sentencing laws for serious sexual and violent offenders, and for those who carry knives.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged that an increase in prisoners will “in the short term… mean more pressure on our jails” and said that work must also be done to “reduce overcrowding, beef up security, and do more to educate in jail”.

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