Rt Hon Sir Mike Penning MP – Update from Parliament May 2018

Last month I wrote an article for The Sun about how it is no coincidence that the rise in knife crime directly correlates to a dramatic fall in the number of stop and searches carried out by our police.

Fatal stabbings in England and Wales are at their highest level since 2011 with 215 deaths involving a knife or other sharp instrument in the year to March, according to the Office for National Statistics. In contrast, random spot checks have plunged 80 per cent in less than a decade, from 1.5million a year to 303,000.

For years, stop and search was a key tool in the policy armoury, but when I was Police Minister, it was obvious to me that some communities were being disproportionately targeted. Black people were seven times more likely to be stopped by police than white people, with only one in ten of those searches leading to an arrest.

So, in 2014 the then Home Secretary, Theresa May introduced a flagship reform making police more accountable about who they stop and search. But, she never expected that senior police officers would instruct their officers to cease using these powers altogether.

Officers tell me that frisking a youth in the street has become too big a risk in these politically correct days. They have told me that unless they can see a weapon, they will not even consider stopping a suspect.

As a result, hardly a day goes by without the pages of our newspapers containing stories of yet another life needlessly lost to knife crime. In the past month, here in Dacorum, we have had seen two fatal stabbings and a rape at knifepoint.

But how many more young men and women need to die before we free our police to tackle this menace?

Enough is enough. It is time for action. It was encouraging to hear Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick promise an increase in use of stop and search powers. She confirms my belief that many officers have lost their nerve over spot checks — but assures us she will not be cowed by political correctness in her efforts to bring down knife crime. So I look forward to seeing her force, and others, carry out the wishes of victims’ parents and get out there to do more searches.

The police are petrified of using stop and search because it could destroy their careers, but it should be the criminals who carry knives who should be in fear of the police. Unless we allow our police to use their skills and local knowledge to tackle violent crime, more lives will be lost.

The real expectation of being caught and sent to prison will make young people think twice about leaving home carrying a deadly weapon. So I urge the Prime Minister to untie the hands of the police and let them use one of their best preventative weapons. Reverse this politically correct nonsense issued by the police college and others in high office.

Let’s put the fear into the criminals and not into the Thin Blue Line there to protect us all.


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