Tackle repeat offenders with ‘five strikes and out’ rule, says leading Tory group

Pentonville Prison, London
"The reoffending rate causes immense damage to law and order, making it difficult for the police to do their jobs," said the New Conservatives' report. "Tougher sentencing is essential to helping a reformed police enforce the law on our streets." - ANTHONY DEVLIN/PA WIRE/PA

Offenders should face automatic jail sentences after five convictions, under a ten-point plan drawn up by a leading group of Tory MPs to crack down on crime.

The “five strikes and out” rule would aim to tackle the nine per cent of prolific criminals responsible for more than half of the offences in England and Wales, according to the New Conservatives group of 25 MPs.

“Hyper-prolific” criminals cautioned or convicted of at least 45 offences would face mandatory two-year custodial sentences for each further offence they committed.

The proposal follows research which found more than half (52.7 per cent) of the 9,668 crimes committed by hyper-prolific offenders – those responsible for more than 45 offences – did not result in a prison sentence.

“At a cost of £18.1 billion a year, the overall reoffending rate of 25 per cent causes immense damage to law and order, making it difficult for the police to do their jobs,” said the New Conservatives’ report. “Tougher sentencing is essential to helping a reformed police enforce the law on our streets.”

The two measures have been put down as amendments to the Government’s new sentencing bill and are backed by more than 40 Tory MPs including Suella Braverman, the former home secretary.

Suspended prison sentences

The Bill has been stalled amid concerns in No 10 that one of its central plans to replace one-year jail terms with suspended prison sentences will be seen as “soft justice” ahead of the general election. It was put forward by Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, to tackle prison overcrowding.

The New Conservatives’ Ten Point Plan represents a pitch for the Conservatives’ manifesto on crime as it vies with Labour which last week announced plans to extend police powers to charge domestic abuse offenders without consulting the CPS. It is also committed to the Tories’ £4 billion new prison plan.

The Tory MPs’ plan goes further by proposing that police should get powers to detain serial offenders for up to seven days and restore their ability to charge criminals for robbery, burglary, theft, knife crime and violent offences without requiring authorisation by the Crown Prosecution Service.

They said this would tackle a 50 per cent rise in delays in offenders being charged. On average, it takes 419 days from a crime being reported to a charge being made due to increased bureaucracy. “During such long periods of time, a victim might stop pursuing charges and criminals walk away with impunity,” said the MPs.

“This is also time wasted entirely when a suspect pleads guilty, forgoing the need for a trial. Such massive waste in time acts as a deterrent against recruitment of new detectives and leaves officers demoralised.”

The MPs also called for police forces to adopt the “broken windows” approach to antisocial behaviour and crime as part of a strategy to reverse the slump in trust and public confidence in the police after the collapse in charging rates for crimes from 15.6 per cent in 2015 to less than six per cent.

Criminal behaviour

“If there is widespread antisocial behaviour then people will feel that their community and personal safety is under threat regardless of what national statistics might say. Smaller incidents of criminal behaviour can also set people on the path towards committing more serious acts,” said the MPs.

They backed a 10,000 increase in officers - echoing a plan by Labour - to staff beefed-up neighbourhood “ward” teams. All officers would be required to spend two years on such beats. Chief constables would get greater powers to sack officers for underperformance or misconduct.

The group also called for a crackdown on “woke” policing, arguing that police had damaged public trust in their impartiality by appearing to support some causes, such as by taking the knee at Black Lives Matter protests, and not being tough enough on the pro-Palestine protests.

It proposed that the Government should issue statutory guidance stipulating impartiality on political issues and identity politics, stressing that the police should not “take a side” in any such issues.

The MPs said the Government should also introduce enhanced powers for the Home Secretary to ban protests that pose a serious threat to both public order and social cohesion.

Tories must go back to basics

By Marco Longhi

For centuries, British policing has stood as a pillar of society, upholding law and order with integrity and impartiality. Rooted in conservative principles of community engagement and public trust, policing by consent has been the hallmark of British law enforcement.

However, recent years have seen a troubling departure from these foundational values, with bureaucratic inefficiencies, misplaced priorities and political activism eroding public confidence in the police.

The Conservative Party, historically championing the cause of law and order, must reclaim its legacy by spearheading a return to the basics of British policing. This entails a fundamental shift away from the current bureaucratic and woke model towards one that prioritises local communities, common sense and excellence in law enforcement.

Central to this recalibration is a renewed commitment to the successful “broken windows” approach, which recognises the importance of addressing minor infractions to prevent the escalation of crime and maintain public order. By targeting visible signs of lawbreaking, such as vandalism and disorderly conduct, law enforcement can foster a safer and more orderly environment conducive to community wellbeing.

Overall, sentencing policies profoundly impact policing operations, affecting everything from resource allocation to the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts. Tougher sentencing, streamlined processes and strategic cooperation with other enforcement agencies are crucial for effective policing in modern society.

Automatic custodial sentences

It cannot be right that the police catch known criminals committing offences again and again only for the courts to offer them sixth, seventh or even 50th chances. We must ensure that those who treat crime as a way of life face real penalties for continued offending. There is no good reason that serial offenders should not face automatic custodial sentences.

Moreover, evidence underscores the detrimental impact of political activism within the police force, which undermines public trust and impartiality in law enforcement. When officers prioritise social justice causes over their duty to uphold the law, they erode the foundation of policing by consent. It is imperative that police officers refrain from supporting politically contentious issues and instead focus on impartially enforcing the law.

The erosion of public trust in policing is substantially exacerbated by bureaucratic mismanagement and a misallocation of resources towards social justice initiatives. Despite adequate funding from central government, police forces have veered off course, neglecting their core mandate of fighting crime and maintaining public order.

A police force that is visibly more concerned about the latest social fad, one that is seemingly more concerned with the possibility of offending through impartial policing than with policing for the greater good is a police force that will never be trusted or respected by the population it serves.

The Conservative Party must realign policing priorities to ensure that resources are directed towards frontline policing and crime prevention efforts as well as directing police leadership to operationally focus the issues that matter to local people.

To achieve this, bold reforms are necessary. Chief constables must be empowered to swiftly address misconduct and underperformance within their ranks, supported by higher standards in recruitment and training.

Detaining and charging offenders

Additionally, measures to streamline processes for detaining and charging offenders, as well as enhancing immigration enforcement, are crucial steps towards restoring public confidence in policing.

While policing leadership is in need of recalibration around priorities that matter to the nation, the need for structural reforms within policing institutions is also evident. The College of Policing, in particular, must face increased scrutiny for its role in promoting divisive ideologies and failing to implement much-needed improvements.

An independent review of policing institutions is essential to ensure that they are fit for purpose and uphold the principles of impartiality and professionalism.

In conclusion, the Conservative Party must lead the charge in restoring British policing to its highly respected position in society. By prioritising community engagement, common sense and excellence in law enforcement, we can rebuild public trust and uphold the tradition of policing by consent for future generations.

The time for action is now, and only through bold reforms can we ensure that British policing remains a beacon of integrity and impartiality in the years to come.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.