PM to create 10,000 new prison places and boosts stop and search

An extra 10,000 new prison places will be created and stop and search powers expanded, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised.

The first new prison in the £2.5bn programme will be at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, where expansion plans have previously been announced.

The government said the plans showed it was “serious about fighting crime”.

But Labour’s shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said “random” stop and search was a “recipe for unrest”.

The government’s focus on law and order will add to speculation that No 10 is preparing for an autumn general election, said BBC political correspondent Jonathan Blake.

The announcements in England and Wales follow other recent initiatives from Downing Street about the NHS and immigration.

Last month, the government also pledged to recruit 20,000 extra police officers, nearly replacing the number of officers lost since the Conservatives returned to power.

Police officers in England and Wales

Figures for 31 March each year

What are the plans for prisons?

The 10,000 new prison places are expected to be created by building new jails and expanding existing ones, at a cost of up to £2.5bn.

The first new prison will be built alongside the maximum security jail at HMP Full Sutton, the Ministry of Justice said. But plans already announced there have drawn objections from police, who said it would increase violent crime in the jail.

Previously decommissioned prison venues will also be refurbished and brought back into use, the government said.

Mr Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday that the investment was “long overdue”.

He also argued that too many serious violent or sexual offenders are coming out of prison long before they should, and tougher sentences were needed.

“We need to come down hard on crime,” he wrote. “That means coming down hard on criminals. We need to reverse the balance of fear.

“I want the criminals to be afraid – not the public.”

How is stop and search changing?

A pilot scheme making it easier for police to search people without reasonable suspicion, in places where serious violence may occur, is being extended to all 43 forces across England and Wales.

In March, when he was home secretary, Sajid Javid first introduced the scheme in seven police force areas: London, the West Midlands, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Wales and Greater Manchester.

The latest move lifts restrictions over using section 60 stop and search, which allows officers a limited time period to search anyone in a designated area in order to prevent violent crime.

Inspectors will now be able to use section 60 without seeking the authorisation of a senior officer and there will be a lower threshold for its use, with police only needing to reasonably believe that violence “may” occur, not that it will.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Stop and search works. We hear again and again from police that [they] need to be empowered.”

She said powers needed to be used in the “right, legal and professional way” but their use was supported by families of victims of knife crime, from “communities that have suffered so much trauma and pain”.

The announcement comes days after a police officer was stabbed in the headwith a machete in east London.

Why are some people concerned about stop and search?

Stop and search powers have been controversial for many years, with evidence that they are sometimes misused and that they disproportionately target black people.

In 2017-18, black people were 9.5 times more likely to be searched than white people, a gap which has grown in recent years.

Jonathan Hinds, who campaigns against its misuse, told BBC Radio 5 Live he had been stopped three times within a mile by three different police officers.

He warned black people faced being “targeted by these draconian powers”.

Police carrying out stop and search in London
Image captionLondon was one of seven areas where the stop and search pilot scheme was initially trialled

Elena Noel, co-chair of Southwark’s anti-knife crime forum, said action was needed to halt the “crisis” but “independent data does not show that stop and search stops knife crime and violence”.

study of stop and search over a decade in London by the College of Policing found it to be “inconsistent” and “weak” as a deterrent.

Labour accused the Conservatives of trying to “appear tough” instead of dealing with the root causes of crime.

Ms Abbott said evidence-based stop and search was an important tool, but “random stops have only poisoned police community relations” and were a “tried and tested recipe for unrest”.

What are the police saying?

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents police officers, said it welcomed forces across the country being given the same tools to tackle knife crime.

John Apter, the federation’s national chairman, said: “We can’t have a postcode lottery on keeping the public safe.”

“We are in the grip of a wave of violent crime on a scale we’ve not seen before, with young people being killed or stabbed on our streets, and we have to do something about it,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Youth mentor Dijon Joseph and Ch Supt Simon Messinger discuss stop and search

He acknowledged concerns about stop and search and said police officers would be as professional as possible, with many wearing body cameras.

But he said they also had to respond to people who could be “incredibly hostile, aggressive and violent”.