PM creates 10,000 new prison places and boosts stop and search

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting police during a visit to Whaley Bridge Football Club in Derbyshire, after the Toddbrook Reservoir near the village of Whaley Bridge was damaged in heavy rainfallImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Boris Johnson has outlined his law and order plans in a newspaper column

The government will create room for 10,000 new prisoners and expand stop and search powers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson said after a “spate of violent crime… the time for action had come”.

He also said tougher sentencing laws were needed.

Labour’s shadow’s policing minister, Louise Haigh, said the entire criminal justice system was broken “due to Tory austerity”.

The government’s focus on law and order will add to speculation that No 10 is preparing for an autumn general election, said BBC political correspondent Jonathan Blake.

It follows other recent announcements from Downing Street about the NHS and immigration.

Last month, the government also pledged to recruit 20,000 extra police officers, nearly replacing the number of officers lost since the Conservatives came to power.

In the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson said the 10,000 new prison places will be created by building new jails and expanding existing ones, at a cost of up to £2.5bn

The money has already been approved by the Treasury, with Mr Johnson calling the investment “long overdue”.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel last month announced more police officers will be hired

He also argued that too many serious violent or sexual offenders are coming out of prison long before they should, and tougher sentences were needed.

On Monday, Mr Johnson will sit down with representatives from the police and criminal justice system to discuss sentencing.

“We need to come down hard on crime,” he wrote. “That means coming down hard on criminals. We need to reverse the balance of fear.

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

Stop and search changes

Mr Johnson also confirmed that a pilot scheme allowing police to stop and search someone when they believe a crime may – rather than will – be committed, will be extended to all 43 forces across England and Wales.

The scheme was first introduced in seven police force areas in March by Sajid Javid when he was home secretary.

It lifts restrictions over using Section 60 stop and search, such as allowing inspectors to use it without seeking the authorisation of a senior officer.

Stop and search powers have been controversial for many years, with evidence that they are sometimes misused and that they disproportionately target black people.

Mr Johnson acknowledged the controversy, adding: “Of course, it is right that stop-and-search should be done courteously and in accordance with the law.”

“But I also know that the people who back this intervention most fervently are often the parents of the kids who are so tragically foolish as to go out on the streets equipped with a knife, endangering not only the lives of others but their own.”

Image caption London was one of seven areas where the stop and search pilot scheme was initially trialled

Also writing about the announcement in the Sun on Sunday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I want police officers to have the confidence to use this power, safe in the knowledge that I am behind them all the way.

“Just one knife seized during a stop and search could be one life saved.”

She added: “Body cameras can provide the public with reassurances, but I trust the police to use these powers responsibly like the highly-trained professionals they are.”

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Media captionYouth mentor Dijon Joseph and Ch Supt Simon Messinger discuss stop and search

Responding to Mr Johnson’s Mail article, Labour’s Ms Haigh tweeted: “Criminals have little to fear because the entire criminal justice system is broken.”

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

In Birmingham on Saturday another officer was seriously hurt when he was run over with his own vehicle by a suspected car thief.

There has been speculation that Downing Street is preparing for a general election soon after Parliament returns from its summer break next month.

Mr Johnson has ruled out holding a general election before the 31 October Brexit deadline.

However some MPs have said they are willing to trigger one in order to a prevent a possible no-deal Brexit.

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