Britons fear lawlessness after Theresa May 'emasculated' forces, police chiefs say

5 July 2019, 14:38 | Updated: 5 July 2019, 15:53

Theresa May has caused the "emasculation of British policing" and is responsible for people's fear that Britain is lawless, five former heads of Scotland Yard have warned. 

The former police commissioners have penned a letter saying resources had been "drained to dangerously low levels" and victims of crime had "perilously low expectations".

The ex-Met Police chiefs, who were in charge of the capital's police force from 1993 to 2017, urged Mrs May's successor to make policing a priority.

Hours after the letter was published in The Times newspaper, Jeremy Hunt was asked during a leadership hustings event about police resourcing.

Mr Hunt said "austerity did go too far on police numbers", adding there has since been "a rise in knife crime" and "we need to do something about that".

Leadership rival Boris Johnson has pledged to recruit 20,000 police officers, but has been under scrutiny to explain how this would be funded.

In the former chiefs' letter, they wrote: "The reduction of police and support staff by more than 30,000, the virtual destruction of neighbourhood policing and the inadvisable undermining of lawful police powers such as stop and search have taken their toll.”

It comes the day after Britain's top police watchdog warned policing must make "profound and far-reaching" changes or public safety will be put at risk.

Sir Thomas Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, found there are "indications that some forces are straining under significant pressure as they try to meet growing complex and high-risk demand with weakened resources".

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In his yearly State Of Policing report, he called on politicians, police and crime commissioners and the heads of local police forces to make "bold, long-term decisions" and questioned the 43-force structure.

There have been more than 70 homicides in London this year, with 13 teenage victims.

Children as young as seven have been recruited by "county lines" gangs to move drugs around the country, The Children's Society has said.

In a new report, the charity said that a council worker it had spoken to said they were working with a seven-year-old victim, whilst a member of police staff confirmed they were working with an eight-year-old.

A Home Office spokesperson responded to scrutiny over police funding, saying: "Police officers do a vital job in challenging circumstances and we recognise that demand on the police is changing and becoming more complex.

“We have already made progress reforming the police system but recognise there is still more to do and are working with policing leaders across the country to build a smarter, more efficient, system with crime prevention at its heart.

“Police funding has increased by more than £1 billion this year, including council tax and money to tackle serious violence. Police and Crime Commissioners have already indicated they plan to recruit over 3,500 extra officers and staff.”