Suella Braverman urges police to get tougher on Just Stop Oil activists

Home Secretary Suella Braverman was speaking the NPCC’s joint annual conference (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman was speaking the NPCC’s joint annual conference (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Police forces are failing in their duty to crack down on Just Stop Oil activists disrupting the M25 motorway, the Home Secretary said as she called for a focus on “common sense policing”.

Suella Braverman also vowed to take “scissors to red tape” to cut down on bureaucracy when she spoke to chief constables at a summit in Westminster, telling them officers should not be facing “politically correct” distractions and to embrace a “back to basics approach”.

In a rare move to criticise officers in the midst of an operation, Braverman told police chiefs on eco-warriors she expected “a firmer line to safeguard public order. Indeed, that is your duty.”

To a smattering of applause, she announced plans for the College of Policing to review entry routes for officers without a degree in order to attract recruits “of the highest calibre” and the extension of an existing recruitment scheme, adding: “Our police force must be open to those who do not have a degree or want one.”

Reviving her crusade against what she terms “woke policing”, Ms Braverman told the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners annual conference the public want officers fighting crime, not “debating gender on Twitter”.

Home Office officials have been tasked with reviewing the “issue of non-crime hate incidents” to make sure police are focused on tackling crime, she told delegates.

This came after the NPCC’s chairman Martin Hewitt, one of Britain’s most senior officers, urged others to “stand tall” and defend themselves against accusations of being woke.

Ms Braverman told police chiefs that excellence should “come as standard”, adding that she was “deeply concerned about the levels of homicide” and wanted to see homicide rates cut by a previously mooted target of 20 per cent as well as more fraudsters convicted.

Far too often standards have not been high enough and “despicable people” have been allowed to remain within police ranks, Ms Braverman said after Mr Hewitt earlier expressed deep regret that rogue officers were not kicked out of the service sooner.

 (LBC)
(LBC)

In the wide-ranging speech, Ms Braverman also took a hard line on how police should deal with protesters, who she branded “extremists”, before stressing to police chiefs: “I am on your side. I want us all to pull together in the same direction. And I will do everything in my power to support you and to back you.”

Official figures show that just 5.6 per cent of crimes reported to the police in the year ending March 2022 resulted in a charge or summons, down from 7.1 per cent the previous year.

This continued a downward trend since the year to March 2015, when 16 per cent led to a charge or court summons.

Mr Hewitt, whose four-year term as NPCC chairman ends in March, said police have made considerable gains in reducing and preventing crime.

But he told the conference: “But we are solving 50 per cent less crime than seven years ago. Our capabilities to tackle the 4.5 million frauds a year are still too limited. And the public are noticing and confidence is on a downwards trend.”

Mr Hewitt said officers want to focus on crimes like burglary and serious violence but highlighted the amount of non-police work officers are called to do, amounting to around half of emergency calls.

“A cash-starved police service and criminal justice system will struggle to make necessary changes and improve public and victim satisfaction,” he warned.

Later, police chiefs called for press freedom after it emerged journalists have been arrested and held in custody during Just Stop Oil protests.

Charlotte Lynch, of LBC, told of her “terrifying” five hours in a police cell, a day after documentary maker Rich Felgate and photographer Tom Bowles were arrested for reporting on the activists on the M25 in Hertfordshire.

Mr Hewitt said officers are under pressure when dealing with protesters but media should not be prevented from reporting on them.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley inspects new police recruits during his first passing-out parade since taking charge of the force, at Hendon Police Academy (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley inspects new police recruits during his first passing-out parade since taking charge of the force, at Hendon Police Academy (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: “Press freedom is really important and you will often want to be – and quite rightly be – quite close to where difficult things are happening so you can report it well and I absolutely, absolutely support that.

“The principle that you’re going to be close to the action sometimes and we should be sensitive to press freedom, of course I completely agree with.”

Braverman said the reports she had heard were “concerning”, but added: “I think we should allow any investigation into what’s happened to run its course and I wouldn’t want to pre-judge any finding.

“I don’t exactly know what has happened with certainty. I wouldn’t want to comment. All I know is reports and speculation, if I’m honest, so I haven’t read into it or been updated fully on the details.”