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Boris Johnson vows to make criminals feel 'afraid' as he boosts prison places and ramps up stop-and-search

4 min read

Boris Johnson has unveiled £2.5bn of funding for new prison places and given the go-ahead for more police use of stop-and-search powers as he vowed to "come down hard on crime".

The Prime Minister said he wanted "criminals to be afraid – not the public" as he promised to create another 10,000 prison places and ramp up police powers.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson said: "We need to come down hard on crime. That means coming down hard on criminals."

The latest annual crime survey for England and Wales shows that there was an 8% increase in the number of knife offences recorded by police over the past year, with a 3% year-on-year rise in firearms incidents.

Knife-related homicides are meanwhile at their highest level since 1946.

Mr Johnson said the "spate of violent crime" on Britain's streets meant "the time for pieties is over".

The Prime Minister - who clashed with then-Home Secretary Theresa May over moves to rein in controversial police stop-and-search powers when he was mayor of London - said ministers were now "making clear that the police can and should make use" of those tools.

Police will be able to make greater use of so-called Section 60 orders, which allow officers to search somebody without suspicion if they are in an area where they believe an offence is about occur.

Mr Johnson said: "We are extending an existing pilot so that 8,000 more officers can decide to deploy stop-and-search across an area without a senior officer needing to give the go-ahead."

The latest government figures show that black people are still nine-and-a-half times more likely than white people to be targeted by stop-and-search powers, with Labour warning that the boost to Section 60 powers marked a "recipe for unrest".

But Mr Johnson said: "I know stop-and-search is controversial. I know that Left-wing criminologists will object. And, of course, it is right that stop-and-search should be done courteously and in accordance with the law – something that the use of police body cameras has helped to support.

"But I also know that the people who back this intervention most fervently are often the parents of the kids who are so tragically foolish as to go out on the streets equipped with a knife, endangering not only the lives of others but their own."


The Prime Minister meanwhile said there were still "too many serious violent or sexual offenders" leaving prison "long before they should" - and said the country now had "no choice but to insist on tougher sentencing laws for serious sexual and violent offenders, and for those who carry knives".

While he acknowledged that would mean "more pressure on our jails" - almost two-thirds of which are currently classed as over-crowded - the PM vowed to create 10,000 new spaces to try and tackle the problem.

"The Chancellor, Sajid Javid, has agreed to invest up to £2.5 billion to deliver this commitment," he said.

"Frankly, this investment is long overdue. It is not enough just to catch the criminals, punish them and deter them from further crime. We must also do far more to turn their lives around, because our penal system is woefully ill-equipped to rehabilitate and reform."

Mr Johnson added: "We need to be tough on all the causes of crime. But that effort is hopeless unless we are simultaneously tough on crime itself."


Labour said the policies represented "a tried and tested recipe for unrest, not violence reduction".

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: "This draconian approach shows that Boris Johnson's government has no real plans to invest in policing or a public health approach to tackling violent crime. They have opted to 'appear tough' instead of dealing with the root causes of crime.

"Evidence based stop and search will always be a vital tool in preventing crime. But random stops have only poisoned police community relations."

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon added: "If Boris Johnson thinks that building more and more prisons will address this he is sadly mistaken.

"We need a government with a strategy to reduce the number of victims by addressing the causes of crime rather than simply repeating the mistakes of the past."

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