Suella Braverman pledges to 'hold police to greater account' with target to cut crime

Suella Braverman with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley - Kirsty O'Connor/PA
Suella Braverman with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley - Kirsty O'Connor/PA

Suella Braverman has pledged to "hold the police to greater account", as sources said the new Home Secretary believes that the concept of operational independence has been taken too far.

Mrs Braverman has signalled that she will "set direction" and "priorities" for forces as she draws up plans for a league table showing whether forces are meeting a new target to cut homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime by 20 per cent.

A Government source said that the Home Secretary also intended to make greater use of elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales, the vast majority of whom are Conservative, to ensure that forces are focusing on specific priorities set by the Government.

The source suggested that it was wrong for opponents to suggest that the operational independence of the police means "we can't set direction or say what the priorities are or that these are our expectations. It just means we can't say, 'go and arrest this person'".

Drawing a parallel with Ms Truss's earlier questioning of decisions taken by the Bank of England on increasing money supply, a second Government source: "Just because an organisation is independent it doesn’t mean they can’t be criticised at all.

"[Mrs Braverman] wants them more focused on real policing and targets and isn’t afraid to call out the over-policing of Twitter."

Mrs Braverman and the Prime Minister were "on the same page on all of this", the source said.

In a video clip produced by the Home Office, Mrs Braverman said: "My priorities are clear and simple - firstly we need to fix the crisis on the Channel and secondly we need to make our streets safer by holding the police to greater account and supporting victims."

Sources said that a recent letter in which the Home Secretary told police chiefs that the public expects officers to visit the scene of every burglary, was "symbolic" of the approach she would take. In the letter, she said officers needed to stop wasting time on "gestures" and initiatives on diversity and instead focus on "common sense policing".

Last week, she also accused Sussex Police of "playing identity politics" after the force warned social media users against making "hateful" comments towards a convicted, transgender paedophile. The Home Secretary publicly stated that the force should "focus on catching criminals not policing pronouns".

This month, Mrs Braverman is expected to address all chief constables at a meeting of the National Policing Board, a panel revived by Priti Patel, the former home secretary, to help "set the long-term strategic direction for policing" and ensure forces were helping to meet the Government's target of recruiting 20,000 additional staff by March 2023.

Mrs Braverman's stance will build on work started under Ms Patel, who set out plans to amend the Policing Protocol, which governs the relationship between the Home Office, PCCs and chief constables, to reflect a shift towards ministers "taking a keener interest in and ‘leaning in’ on policing matters (whilst respecting operational independence)".

The first Government source said it would mark a "big difference" in the day-to-day relationship between the Government and police.

Referring to the principle of operational independence, the source said: "It doesn't mean we can’t set direction or priorities or say 'these are our expectations of you'. It just means we can’t say, 'go and arrest this person'."

Mrs Braverman wants to "cut the c---", the source added.

In a letter to all 43 chief constables and police commissioners in England and Wales last week, Mrs Braverman she said she had been "dismayed by the perceived deterioration of public confidence" in the police in the past few years following "too many" high-profile incidents, such as the murder of Sarah Everard, that had "shattered public trust" in communities across the UK.

She said there not only had to be a change in culture and standards, but also a drive to bring down neighbourhood crime and anti-social behaviour.

She added: "Reducing crime is a key prime ministerial commitment, and I expect the police, working with local partners, to cut homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime by 20 per cent."

The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, has hit out at the planned target and league table.

Last week, in response to Mrs Braverman's letter to chief constables, Steve Hartshorn, the body's national chairman, said: "Crime cannot be controlled by a government issued, headline-friendly diktat asking police forces to cut serious crimes such as homicide by 20 per cent or else face action.

"Law and order must be free from the ebb and flow of politics and although policing may have to adhere to targets, the public doesn’t – and if we focus on one crime to satisfy a target, at the expense of another, the public loses out."