Pandemic has intensified vulnerability and increased demand on police
The pandemic has intensified the vulnerability of certain people, and combined with failing public services, this has increased demand on the police, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary has said.
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In his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Sir Thomas Winsor described how crime patterns have changed over the last year, with more crime committed online. He said there is a case for greater sanctions in the Online Safety Bill to protect vulnerable people online.
The Chief Inspector said the pandemic had also increased vulnerability in other ways, such as the lockdown leading to more calls for help from those suffering from domestic abuse.
In his 2020 report, Sir Thomas Winsor said some public services, including mental health, keep on failing (page 25). Unless the health and social care system is fixed and people can get the support they need, more people will continue to be vulnerable and enter the criminal justice system unnecessarily, he said.
The Chief Inspector recognised that the chronic backlog in court cases has increased as a result of the pandemic, but he questioned why waiting times have become inexcusably long when the number of cases going into the system is at the lowest level for decades.
Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary said:
“The pandemic provided new opportunities for criminals and showed how essential it is that our public services work well together. It is highly regrettable that new legislation and lockdown restrictions made certain people more vulnerable and limited access to support services. As a result, many more people may have been suffering, and this will have led to increased demand on the police.
“For policing to be effective, the wider criminal justice system and other public services must also be as effective as possible. If they are not, many more people may be drawn to crime, enter into cycles of offending, become victims, and lose confidence in policing.
“I am disappointed on behalf of the public that so little has been done to fix the perilous state of the criminal justice system and failing mental health services. The Government’s next spending review will provide an opportunity to put right many of the problems in policing, and the other public sector agencies must do much more to match the commitment of the police service to protecting people from harm.”
The Chief Inspector said the planned recruitment of an additional 20,000 police officers by 2023 is undoubtedly a good thing, but it also heightens the danger that people unsuited to policing – including those with extremist or racist views – may be recruited.
Sir Thomas Winsor said the quality of vetting needs, therefore, to be consistently high, and Directorates of Professional Standards should be staffed by some of the best detectives.
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