The newly appointed head of the police inspectorate has said forces should concentrate on real offences rather than pursuing people for “thought crime”.
Speaking to The Times, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke called on officers to tackle serious crime, burglaries and car theft but to steer clear of policing ‘opinions’.
In December, the Court of Appeal ruled that police guidance on recording ‘non-crime hate incidents’ unlawfully interfered with free speech.
Free to think
Cooke told the newspaper: “We’re not the thought police, we follow legislation and we follow the law, simple as that.
“Policing is busy enough dealing with the serious offences that are going on, busy enough trying to keep people safe.”
He said he believes “it’s important that the prioritisation that we give is to those most at risk”, adding that officers should stay away from policing “different thoughts that people have”.
“Those thoughts, unless they become actions, aren’t an offence. The law is quite clear in relation to what is an offence and what isn’t an offence.”
In an accompanying editorial, The Times said the public was exasperated with ‘dreadful clear-up rates’ for crimes such as “burglary, shoplifting and robberies”.
It continued: “That exasperation has been fuelled by the zealous determination of some forces to curry modish sympathy and chime in with the growing intolerance of hate crimes by switching resources and manpower to following up an avalanche of complaints”.
The editorial observed: “all too often police are drawn into arguments on misogyny and transphobia that lead to clumsy action, absurd prosecutions and, as judges have recently warned, the risk of curbing free speech”.
Reflecting on the time spent recording and following up approximately 25,000 non-crime hate incidents a year, it concluded: “The job of law enforcement is to stop crime, not to curb age-old rights of free speech.”