MET; a cut too far?
The MET police in London announced this week that it was ‘not practical’ to investigate certain low level crimes in London due to a strain on budget and future savings that are required to be made.
According to New Scotland Yard, there would be a shift towards ‘empowering our officers’ to assess for themselves whether it was proportionate to investigate offences such as shoplifting, criminal damage and car crime. If the complainant in a case was not willing to attend court or the value of the loss/damage was relatively low there could be a decision not to even investigate.
The MET current working procedures
Currently when a complaint is made the police will investigate and make an arrest, or interview voluntarily, if they have reasonable grounds to suspect a particular person’s involvement. If a decision cannot be made about that particular case, the suspect is either bailed to return to the police station or ‘released under investigation’ (RUI). In bail cases the police will work towards making a decision by a particular date; in RUI cases the matter is left open indefinitely whilst investigative work continues.
Increasingly, often due to workload, we have found that RUI cases do not appear to be actively investigated by officers as they do not seem to be high priority. This leaves both suspects and complainants not knowing what will happen to their case. For a complainant, this could leave them feeling justice is not done; for suspects, there will be no way of knowing whether they will face charge and potential criminal proceedings.
Has the MET really thought about the negative consequences of this cut?
There are numerous concerns we have with the proposals laid out by the MET. One of which is the stage at which the decision not to investigate will be made. If made at the point of complaint the effect is likely to be that there are no arrests; this could potentially lead to an emboldening of suspects. If a person inclined towards theft knows that there is a no investigation policy for theft below £50 they are likely to more carefully plan their theft so that it falls below that particular threshold. What is likely to happen is that there is a shift towards lower value theft but in far greater volumes.
If there is no investigation, and of course no arrest, charge and sentence to follow, victims will be left out of pocket and with a feeling that justice has not been done. This could lead to shops and retailers having to tighten their own security, the cost of which is almost inevitably going to pass to the innocent consumer.
Perhaps more worrying is the possibility that retailers and individuals alike may dispense their own justice. If a low-priority theft is not investigated, will it follow that a low-level assault committed on a suspected shoplifter also not be investigated? With budget cuts likely to continue will the new policy be extended; ie the threshold extended to £100?
Policing and law enforcement must not be cut: the criminal justice system is in danger!
We have all had to deal with the years of austerity and cut-backs, but policing and law enforcement is one of the key areas that simply cannot be cut. The criminal justice system is already at breaking point with decrepit prison conditions, prosecution failings, legal aid cuts and court closures. Of course there has to be prioritisation of certain criminal offences, but it should not be at the cost of properly policing and enforcing lower level offences.
If you require representation at the police station or court contact our team on 020 7388 1658 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Duncan Roberts, Solicitor