A Home Office minister was accused of passing the buck yesterday after she defended the investigation by police of hate crimes. Victoria Atkins bla
A Home Office minister was accused of passing the buck yesterday after she defended the investigation by police of hate crimes.
Victoria Atkins blamed decisions to probe wolf-whistling and similar matters on chief constables and elected crime commissioners.
She was also urged to ‘get a grip’ after denying a link between police cuts and a rise in murders.
In a stumbling BBC interview, Miss Atkins insisted the spike in gang-related violence in London and other cities was not due to a reduction in officer numbers but because the nature of crime had changed.
She was put on the spot following the fatal stabbing of a man in Anerley, south London, on Sunday – the fourth in the capital in five days and one of 118 killings this year.
Miss Atkins spoke out after Sara Thornton, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said officers should be allowed to get back to tackling burglary and serious offending rather than so-called hate crimes, 94,000 of which were investigated in 2017-18.
Miss Atkins, a junior minister for crime, said there was more than one reason behind the bloodshed – including the rise of so-called ‘county lines’ drugs gangs.
‘The nature of crime is changing,’ she said. ‘Gangs are far more ruthless than they used to be. The levels of violence which doctors are now seeing in A&Es show that incidents which before perhaps wouldn’t have resulted in fatalities now are resulting in fatalities.
‘The police and others have to face up to the reality that criminals are changing their crime types and we have to be able to tackle that.’
On claims that the crime epidemic was linked to falling police numbers, Miss Atkins said that ‘wasn’t supported by the evidence’.
Earlier this year, internal Home Office research suggested cuts had ‘likely contributed’ to a rise in violence.
But that document also appeared to contradict itself, stating it was unlikely that ‘lack of deterrence was the catalyst for serious violence’.
Miss Atkins also played down the idea that political focus on hate crimes such as misogyny was distracting attention from core policing priorities.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey said: ‘It’s astonishing but true that Conservative ministers clearly don’t believe increasing police numbers has a role to play in tackling Britain’s violent crime wave. They really need to get a grip.
‘What this minister said is flatly contradicted by the Home Office’s own analysis, leaked earlier this year. It stated clearly that Tory police cuts have ‘likely contributed’ to the rise in serious violence.
‘It’s also contradicted by the Police Federation, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Metropolitan Police commissioner, who have all warned that Tory cuts are harming forces’ ability to do their jobs and keep us all safe.
‘The police shouldn’t be forced to choose between investigating serious violence and investigating hate crimes. The Government must give them the resources to do both.’
Lord Hogan-Howe, who served as Metropolitan Police commissioner from 2011 to 2017, stressed the need for extra resources as the Government was tackled at Westminster over cuts to police numbers.
Calling for more technology to help officers identify those carrying knives, he added: ‘The investment of resources when we have lost 24,000 police officers is vital.’