Police chief breaks silence amid reports of 'fewer arrests' to save prison space

The chief of West Midlands Police has today said it’s ‘business as usual’ for his force amid reports police are being told to make fewer arrests to save prison space. It comes as force chiefs are reportedly being advised to consider halting ‘non-priority arrests’ until there is sufficient capacity in jails, the Times reports.

The Times said it had obtained an internal document from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) which also said ‘any planned operations where large numbers of arrests may take place’ should potentially be paused to ease pressures in the criminal justice system. The guidance is thought to apply to operations that do not have to happen on a specific date and could be arranged for a later time.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary, and MP for Ladywood, Shabana Mahmood said: “It beggars belief that police are being told to sit on their hands and ignore crime because the Conservatives have mismanaged the criminal justice system so badly. But Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Craig Guildford, said cells were ‘fully open’ to those who ‘need to be there.’

READ MORE: Disgraced teacher struck off for having sex with former pupil showed 'no remorse'

In a statement, Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “Part of the reason for our 10 per cent crime reduction last year was due to the great teamwork on arrests. The two new custody suites we opened and a 40 per cent increase in arrests has quadrupled our outcomes on behalf of the public.

“I applaud such hard work as Chief Constable. It's very much business as usual for us in the West Midlands.

“Our cells are fully open and my expectation is that they are to be filled as usual with those who need to be there. Our job is, as a team of officers and staff, to relentlessly pursue those who offend on behalf of the public we serve.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed some prisoners could be released up to two months early to relieve overcrowding in jails in England and Wales. Justice secretary, Alex Chalk, said the policy would only apply to ‘certain low-level offenders.’

A government spokesperson said: “Public safety will always be our first priority. That is why we have backed our police with the officers and resources they need to keep our streets safe and are introducing new laws to lock up the most dangerous offenders for longer while delivering the biggest prison expansion programme in 100 years.

“We continue to see pressure on our jails following the impact of the pandemic and barristers’ strike and have initiated a previously used operational measure to securely transfer prisoners between courts and custody.”