James Cleverly at the APCC general meeting
The Home Secretary spoke at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners general meeting on 7 February 2024.
Thank you. I’m trying to work out whether the applause is for my attendance or for the announcement of the money.
First of all, thank you all. It’s great to have the opportunity to speak to you all. I hope that those who know me, and some of you who have known me for quite some time, will have explained my credentials to those who’ve been maybe not known me for quite so long. I’m a big fan of the police and crime commissioner model. I was an advocate for it before it was cool. Back before it was legislation, and of course, I’ve come from my own background in police governance from the time that I was at City Hall in London.
You are the voice of the local communities. When it comes to the governance of policing laws with our policing model, being of the community, for community from the community, having that golden thread of community accountability to the police forces that serve them, I think is incredibly important. And I also think it’s important that we maintain this pattern of dialogue, and that not only do I get to speak and you get to listen, which is of course always my favourite model of communication, but you also get to speak and I promise that I will listen.
So the situation we find ourselves in the headlines can sometimes give the impression that we’re in uniquely dark and difficult times. But when we compare the situation with the end of September 2023, to the year ending December 2019, as we look back over those couple of years, we each have seen some really positive figures.
So for example, hospital admissions, following an assault with a sharp object, which is the most objective measure of youth knife crime and violence, was down by 25%. And these are not figures you can fudge. That’s real. Homicides are down by 16%, neighbourhood crime down by 24%, 35% (fall) in domestic burglary, and an 18% fall in victim related crime. This is stuff that people in communities feel. This is what has an impact upon them. And those figures are heading in the right direction. But we will recognise that if you personally are a victim of crime, speaking about a general reduction is no solace, and that’s why it is so important that we cannot ever lose sight of the importance of the individual, of the victim, when we talk about those overall numbers.
And I’m absolutely clear that the job of the Home Secretary, the job of the Home Office, I suspect, you will, at least in part agree with me on this, is about reassurance as well as the practicalities. It is really important that we ensure not only that people are safe, but that they also feel safe. Because, and I mentioned this, I think in the very first speech that I made as Home Secretary, because when people feel safe, they go out, they engage in their local communities, they volunteer, they live a fuller life than they would otherwise do. So of course trying to create an effect on people’s lives, but the fear of crime also has a corrosive effect. It limits people’s opportunity to live the best life they can lead.
And that’s why I want to be able to look into the eyes of people around the country wherever they may be and know that they are feeling safe. I said so at the National Policing Board that I chaired recently, and this of course means as well as driving down those figures, it is about visible policing – and it is about the policing of visible crime crimes.
High harm crimes are of course also incredibly important, but the public are also concerned about things like shoplifting. And sadly, in conversations I’ve had with members my own family and my friends, it’s still the case that far, far too many women and girls do not feel safe when they are out in the public domain and in a society such as ours, a modern society, that is unacceptable, and we absolutely have to prioritise the work that we do to address that.
So I want to see major improvements in the quality of investigations. It’s a core function of policing. Because again, we know the far too many people report that the information that they provide to the police does not in their mind get appropriately acted on. So a key aim for this year for me is to increase the percentage of reported crimes that result in a successful outcome, because sadly on average only 8% of victim-based crime in England and Wales results in a successful outcome. Sadly, this has declined, and there is much, much, more to learn. And there is variation of course between forces, and fixing this I believe very strongly, more than anything else is central to build the general confidence of the public in policing.
And so, back to basics is a bit of a cliché phrase from politicians. So, this is about going back to the core functions. Core policing, that core investigatory set of skills. Of course, that can be amplified, accelerated and supported with the use of cutting-edge technology, like retrospective and indeed live facial recognition software, which in the trials that I’ve seen the results of this had a dramatic effect, and we need to make sure all forces are operating at their full potential.
And one of the reasons why I want to strengthen the role of PCCs, is that you, with your closest relationships and your intimate knowledge of the forces that you’re responsible for, are best placed at a local level, to drive forward a focus on that core policing functionality. And I know that you want to see increased safety and confidence in our neighbourhoods just as much as I do. This is, I don’t believe, me pushing you to do anything you don’t naturally want to do. And so we are looking for alliances and to get a commitment not just from the political level but of course from all the Chief Constables around the country to ensure that they pursue every reasonable line of enquiry, they attend home burglaries, they deliver on the commitments made by the Retail Crime Action Plan, all these things will be important steps in the right direction.
And when I discussed this at the recent National Policing Board just last week, what I got was very, very supportive and very, very committed responses and it was great to hear that the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police was able to run through a list of results, which was in large part driven by that commitment to core policing. So I’m more confident than ever this is actually the right approach. And it’s also what the people we serve expect of us, it is what they want us to focus on. And so, in terms of tackling things like car theft, home theft, criminal damage, shoplifting, we do need to make sure we stay focused on the this and of course, the invisible crimes, those high harm crimes, are absolutely key, but those visible crimes – we must not lose sight of the impact they have on communities.
When I first spoke my first public utterances as Home Secretary, I think of saying there is no such thing as minor crime – it’s a phrase that I despise and I think that implying that somehow there’s criminality which the police take less seriously or we take less seriously is something that we should avoid in all circumstances, for the reasons I said about the criminal behaviour that people see and feel most acutely in their communities.
Now, I mentioned about the commitment I feel, particularly for women and girls, and it is incredibly important that alongside the tackling of that visible crime, that we dramatically improve the victims experience of the justice system for women and girls. You will be well aware of course of Operation Soteria, which is now being implemented in all 43 police forces in England and Wales. Government is ensuring that 2000 officers receive specialist training on the investigation of rape by April this year.
And our actions are about supporting the actions you’re taking locally. To help improve the way that teams operate, are treated and to ensure that more rapists are arrested, prosecuted and put behind bars. His Majesty’s Inspectorate has found sadly victims are not regularly updated during the investigation at certain important points. And of course, this must change. The Victims’ Code of Practice will outline the minimum levels of support a victim of crime should expect from a local force and from their local Crown Prosecution Service. But that is a floor not a ceiling. That is the minimum, not what we should be aiming for.
So everything that we do hinges on the broader confidence of the British public in the whole criminal justice system, and I’ve made the point that whilst the headline figures have come now, sadly, public confidence has not gone up. Part of that reason is because of a number of high profile and terrible failures in professional conduct by police officers, and for every headline grabbing incident, sadly, there are a number of others, less public, less high profile (incidents) where conduct has fallen short of what we expect. And inevitably, this has shaken, and certainly in some instances, shattered public confidence in policing.
Again, I said when I was appointed that I will always seek to praise publicly, the people that keep us safe. But part of that contract is that I expect leaders in policing to do the right thing and demonstrate a commitment to reform – a deep seated commitment to reform and a complete commitment to professional standards.
And that is why the government is giving police leaders enhanced tools, enhanced powers, but also an enhanced expectation that they do the right thing and lead their forces robustly. Once again, you as a group of people have a pivotal role in ensuring that police leaders hold their officers to account and that they in turn are held to account if they fail to do so. Just last week the families of Barnaby Webber, Grace O’Malley Kumar and Ian Coates visited the Prime Minister and had the chance to meet with him, and they raised serious questions about the events leading up to the tragic killings of their loved ones. It’s actually the right place to share that the Nottinghamshire police have referred themselves to the IOPC and I pay tribute to Caroline, the Nottinghamshire PCC, for commissioning a comprehensive College of Policing review into what happened.
We have to be willing to learn painful lessons when situations like this occur. Part one of the Angiolini Inquiry is expected to report in the coming months and policing must absolutely take into consideration its findings, just as I will. I think I mentioned this again when I first spoke to you just up the road in my first week on the job, that one of the first roles I performed in the London Assembly whilst I was a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority as it was then, was on the professional standards committee. So I know first-hand just how critical it is to remove from the force those police officers whose integrity and behaviour are unacceptable.
And I am still to this day committed that those unfit to wear the uniform must be removed, but that those who have proven to be innocent need to be swiftly exonerated. The government is delivering changes to the misconduct, vetting and performance system. So we’re helping police leaders grip this issue, giving them more control to act over those who fail vetting or fall short of requirements of required standards. And we know that in this room, that there are a group of people who are probably more angry about bad coppers than almost anybody else, outside those in uniform themselves, and equally I would suggest the only people perhaps who are more angry about bad coppers are good coppers. So we have to support the good coppers in doing the right thing. And that’s why we agreed to fund the development. We’ve agreed to fund the development of the system for policing, which provides forces with a timely alerting solution, so they can act speedily on any concerning intelligence about officers or police staff.
And as I said, critical to public confidence is people seeing the police and seeing crime being dealt with; improving the visibility of police in a very targeted way, to deter criminals and ensure that communities feel confident. So I’m grateful to everyone who’s contributed to the autumn 2023 returns on visibility and especially to the APCC for coordinating the contributions. I wouldn’t say to the police chief, I expect them to give me hard evidence that they are prioritising the neighbourhood policing that is demanded of them.
So with regard to hotspots and hotspot policing, I promised I would listen to you. We published an ambitious anti-social behaviour action plan in March 2023. The government pilot of antisocial behaviour hotspot responses has been, I’m pleased to say, a success, with additional patrolling, delivering on those promised outcomes. We’ve also provided GRIP funding to police forces in areas with the highest levels of serious violence. But coming back to the PCCs and given the overlap between ASB [antisocial behaviour] hotspots activity, and the GRIP serious violence fund, we will combine the 2 funding streams for a wider rollout to territorial forces across England and Wales in 2024 to 2025. In total funding available will be over £66 million, and each PCC area will receive at least £1 million each.
Now, of course, I am sure that you will have been lobbied by your police officers, you will be lobbying me no doubt, about the police funding settlement in 2024 to 2025. We’ve listened to the forces about financial demands they face and giving police the resources they need to protect the public is of course a priority for us. And that’s why for the coming settlements for 2024 to 2025, the money available to PCCs will increase by up to £922.2 million, and there’s been an increase in the total settlement the more than 30% in cash terms since 2019 to 2020. And of course that is to support the uplift in police numbers.
So having delivered a way to recruit 20,000 police officers: thank you very much for that. I look forward to working with you and your chief constables to ensure that those numbers are maintained. There are now 149,000 officers in England and Wales, higher than the pre-uplift peak of 2010. And of course the funding is there to stay, to maintain those office numbers, to ensure that they are on the beat, to ensure that they are supported.
Finally, I wanted to say something directed towards you as a cohort, as well as the police forces that you work with. I said I’m a big fan of PCCs, of the PCC model, and I want to support you in that role. And as we discussed when I first stood up, I’m very much aware that you are increasingly visible high-profile individuals. And that is why I’m very, very happy to give additional money to help support your personal security, and to protect you in the role that you do. The security minister is continuing to work on cross government work to protect the security of all elected officials, including yourselves, and I’m very grateful for Katie Ball who gave the APCCs engagement on this. I really hope it does make a difference; that additional million pounds of support is something that matters. I know it matters to you. And it matters because I want to protect your role and to protect you as individuals.
So let’s continue working together. Let’s continue serving the people who elect us. Let’s make sure that we focus resources on the things that people care most about. And let’s ensure that when we look back on this forthcoming year, not only do we see an ongoing reduction in crime, we see an increase in the confidence of policing the country.
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