Amber Rudd warns Sajid Javid not to pile extra pressure on police with misogyny crackdown
Former home secretary Amber Rudd has warned her successor Sajid Javid that the police have "enough on their hands" without having to deal with a string of new hate crimes.
Ms Rudd sided with a warning from senior police chief Sara Thornton, who said asking under-pressure forces to probe new misogyny and ageism-related offences risks distracting them from a crackdown on violent crime.
Ms Thornton's call has already won the backing of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who said cops were having to take "a harder and harder line on what we do there and where we do it".
Speaking to the Today programme, Ms Rudd said: "I am with Sara and Cressida on this. Unless we give them extra resources I think the police have enough on their hands.
"And let me say this: Every police officer I spoke to, including Cressida and Sara, would say, and they said to me over the past two years, their focus has always been serious violence.
"They can do other things as well. But they know what their job is and that is primarily to protect people. So serious violence has always been the number one priority and nobody would have it any other way."
The intervention comes after Mr Javid ordered the Law Commission to look at whether the definition of hate crime should be expanded to include fresh criteria such as misogyny and ageism.
Current legislation lists "protected characteristics" as race, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability and trans identity.
Floating plans to expand the definition, Mr Javid said: "Hate crime goes directly against the longstanding British values of unity, tolerance and mutual respect, and I am committed to stamping this sickening behaviour out."
But Ms Thornton - who is chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) - warned her organisation's conference this week that while making misogyny a hate crime was "a concern for some well-organised campaigning organisations", it could distract the police from "the basics".
She said: "I want us to solve more burglaries and bear down on violence before we make more records of incidents that are not crimes.
"I hope that the Law Commission’s review on hate crime takes account of the pressure on forces before suggesting the law is changed."
Speaking at the same conference, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said that while Ms Thornton had spoken "robust common sense", forces should not be asked to choose between "de-prioritising hate crime" and tackling other issues.
Asked if she backed an expanded definition, the Labour frontbencher said: "I am in favour, because it is the right thing to do, to take the most serious action against hate crime. But we cannot give the police more responsibilities without providing the resources."