Speech: Cutting red tape to free up police time to focus on solving crimes

Home Office

April 13
16:47 2023

Good morning everyone.

Thank you for attending today. Its a great pleasure to see everyone here. Let me start by saying a huge thank you to everyone in policing, those here with us today and frontline officers up and down the country for the work they do on the daily basis to keep us and our families safe.

We rely on the police to protect us, support us, to enforce our laws and help secure justice when those laws are broken.

Officers place themselves in the way of danger to discharge their duties. The work they do is extremely important. Without it the foundation of our society would crumble. We owe thanks to the men and women up and down the country devoted to their mission of fighting crime and keeping their communities safe.

And speaking of numbers, were going to have an announcement I think in a couple of weeks on the 26th of April, getting the results of the Police Uplift Programme - the plan to hire an extra 20,000 officers. While we dont have the final figures yet, I am fairly confident when those figures are announced, well have more police officers in England and Wales than we have at any time in our countrys history.

And that is something only we can be enormously proud of. All of us that have worked on that mission together, I think can be enormously proud of as well, so keep 26th April marked in your diaries. That will be a huge announcement for policing and the law enforcement community. I know the Prime Minister and Home Secretary will be doing lots of work around the announcement but keep an eye out because itll be fantastic culmination of whats been an incredible programme between the Home Office and policing.

Now policing in a job like no other. Difficult, often dangerous, always pressurised. The work matters.

One minute officers could be racing to the scene of an emergency, the next visiting a victim of burglary. One of the great privileges of my role as policing minister is seeing first-hand the incredible work they do. As Gavin [Chief Constable Gavin Stephens] said in his opening comments, fantastic officers across the country go above and beyond the call of duty. Who run towards danger when others run away, who give everything to help others.

My respect and admiration for these officers is unlimited.

I also want to see those same officers use their time on the things they are good at and trained for, and indeed the things they want to do. Protecting the public, supporting victims and preventing crime.

First of all, as Policing Minister I want to make sure we clear away any obstacles that get in the way of police officers focusing on the things that matter to them and to our communities, which means cutting down on red tape which so often gets in the way of real police work.

Whatever their values, police officers are driven by a desire to protect the public and catch criminals. But they cant do that if they are spending hours putting excessive information into computers. We have processes to ensure proper records are kept. But those cant go too far, and Ill say a little more about our plans in a moment.

Secondly, Im also clear the police should not be a stopgap for other agencies. Police officers are of course often first responders, problem solvers and investigators, but they are not for example, mental health specialists. In my view the police should not be expected to fill in for other emergency services where there is no risk to life or safety and where no criminal offence has been committed.

I want to talk about the plans we have to reform the way mental health cases are handled to ensure policing spend time protecting the public, not on work better done by other agencies.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alan Pughsley, former Chief Constable of Kent, who is leading piece of work on police productivity. The counting rules I will talk about, the mental health work is part of this, but there is more to come.

Id like to thank Alan for this work to ensure the police will spend as much of their time as possible fighting crime and catching criminals affecting the public, not on other activity that is bureaucratic or a distraction. So, Alan thank you for your work leading on that area.

Now let me start substantively talking about the Home Office counting rules. This is an area of the criminal justice system, outside policing, not many people are familiar with, but they are rules which specify what the police have to record in detail as criminal offences.

Now clearly, its vital that accurate records are kept, but concerns have been brought to me as policing minister over the last few months that the rules developed over time have become excessively bureaucratic and compel the police to record the same reports of crime under multiple records, creating huge amounts of data entry duplication, which is preventing them being on the streets looking after the public where they belong.

Chris Rowley, the Chief Constable of Lancashire very kindly agreed, well I assume he agreed rather than being compelled, to look into this and provide a series of recommendations. Chris came up with these recommendations a few weeks ago and we have accepted in full and this morning we are formally announcing that.

One of his recommendations is that we cease the requirement for police to create separate crime records when there is more than one crime in a particular report or account that a victim has passed to the police.

All of those other crimes will still get recorded on the incident record so we can prosecute and investigate them. We dont really need to create multiple criminal records when there is only one report or incident. So, were going to revert the principal crime rule for all crime which was the case until relatively recently in 2017. We are also removing the requirement to record minor public order offences where no victim has been identified or when the police turn up, there is nothing to see.

Of course, that will still be recorded as an incident, and used for intelligence purposes, but creating a whole new crime record where this is no victim and nothing when the police turn up is taking up a lot of time which could be better spent catching criminals.

We are also making clear frivolous allegations of criminal offences should not be recorded as a criminal offence unless a criminal threshold has clearly been met. We dont think being rude or insulting is a police matter. Officers are not the thought police. And where something is reported and it doesnt meet that clear criminal threshold, we dont want that being investigated or to be recorded as a crime, we dont want to waste police time on that kind of thing. We will very shortly be publishing guidance clarifying where that threshold should sit.

So, whats the impact of the changes I have described? What is the impact on policing? Well, the NPCC, the National Police Chiefs Council, have done some sums on this, and they have calculated that making the changes I have described will save 443,000 hours of police time each year. Almost half a million hours of police time. Instead of being spent filling in forms and bureaucracy, they will be spent catching criminals and supporting victims.

This is an enormous impact the public and policing will welcome. I want to see these changes implemented as soon as possible. Nothing annoys me more than government processes taking months and months or years and years. So, I have pressed colleagues to get this done fast. We should actually be able to get these changes rolled out next month. The changes I have described will take practical effect just a few weeks from today.

Were not going to stop there. I would like to go further and there will be a second phase to the work on counting rules which I hope Chris is willing to continue working on. We will look at various other things like the National Standards for Incident Recording for example and the way that the outcomes of investigations are recorded. I think currently there is 20 or 30 ways the outcomes of investigations are recorded. So, we are going to see if we can go further and lift the burden off the shoulders of policing, because we want to see police chasing criminals, not paperwork.

So, Chris, Alan, thank you again for the work youre doing on this over the last few months. As a return on a few months work, saving half a million hours of police time, every year, forever, is a pretty good return on investment.

So, Chris I want to say thank you very much for everything you have done.

Now secondly one of the other areas brought to my attention shortly after being appointed Policing Minister a few months ago was the demand mental health places on police time. This was raised by people from Mark Rowley of the Met to frontline emergency response officers in Croydon, which is the borough I represent in Parliament.

Everyone was raising this as a concern. The concern was cases that were basically medical, a mental health crisis, where there was no threat to life or safety, either to the individual themselves or the public more widely, were getting passed to policing, rather than being dealt with as a medical or social services incident and taking up a huge amount of police time.

Turns out there has been some fantastic work done on this in Humberside to define more appropriately who deals with what incident, which also benefits the individual. If someone is having a mental health crisis, its not really that helpful to have a police officer turn up without medical support.

In Humberside, led by Chief Constable Lee Freeman - who I initially just discovered was initiated by Chris when he was Chief Constable beforehand. Its called Right Care Right Person.

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