Minister slaps down police chief who said shoplifters stealing to eat should be spared

19 May 2022, 08:17 | Updated: 19 May 2022, 10:28

By Asher McShane

The policing minister has struck back at remarks made by the new chief inspector of constabulary who said officers should use discretion in cases where people are stealing to eat amid the cost of living crisis.

Kit Malthouse told Nick Ferrari at breakfast today: “We believe the law should be blind. Police officers should act without fear or favour in the prosecution of the law."

"I wrote to chief constables just a year or so ago saying they should not be ignoring those seemingly small crimes."

His comments come after Andy Cooke said he "fully supports" police using their discretion when dealing with crimes committed as a result of the cost of living crisis.

Mr Malthouse said: “It’s not quite right to say that as the economy fluctuates, so does crime. We’ve seen economic problems in the past, or not, where crime has risen, or not.

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Andy Cooke said he "fully supports" police using their discretion when dealing with crimes committed as a result of the cost of living crisis
Andy Cooke said he "fully supports" police using their discretion when dealing with crimes committed as a result of the cost of living crisis. Picture: Alamy

“Our job is to get ahead of these kind of crimes, particularly acquisitive neighbourhood crimes.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that says poverty doesn’t cause crime, crime and violence cause poverty.

“Our job is to make sure we drive down crime, notwithstanding that challenge for everybody.”

The new HM chief inspector of constabulary said police should use "discretion" when deciding whether to prosecute desperate shoplifters amid rising poverty levels.

Andy Cooke told The Guardian that petty crime fuelled by the cost-of-living crisis would pose a challenge for policing, as inflation hit a 40-year high in April.

Mr Cooke told the newspaper: "I think whenever you see an increase in the cost of living or whenever you see more people dropping into poverty, I think you'll invariably see a rise in crime.

"And that's going to be a challenge for policing to deal with."

Speaking about his advice for officers, Mr Cooke added: "What they've got to bear in mind is what is the best thing for the community, and that individual, in the way they deal with those issue.

"And I certainly fully support police officers using their discretion - and they need to use discretion more often."

He said he was not "giving a carte blanche for people to go out shoplifting", but wanted officers to ensure cases were "dealt with in the best way possible".

He added that he hoped to pull the current 6% charge rate for recorded offences up to 20%, and to ensure every burglary victim should receive a visit from police.

Mr Cooke has worked in policing since 1985 including as Chief Constable of Merseyside Police until taking over as HM chief inspector of constabulary from Sir Tom Winsor in April.

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