UK

Home Secretary Priti Patel: I want criminals to feel terror

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel gestures as she speaks during a visit to the West Midlands Police Learning Development Centre in Birmingham Image copyright Reuters

The new home secretary, Priti Patel, has said she wants criminals to "literally feel terror" at the thought of breaking the law.

In her first interview in the role, Ms Patel told the Daily Mail she hoped more officers on the streets would make criminals fearful.

She also distanced herself from past comments supporting the death penalty.

Labour said the Conservative Party didn't understand "tough rhetoric will not bring an end to soaring crime".

Ms Patel was appointed home secretary in July, when Boris Johnson became prime minister and overhauled the cabinet.

Her interview comes after she and Mr Johnson announced last week the recruitment of 20,000 more police officers in England and Wales.

These extra officers will replace the 21,732 police officers lost since 2010, when the Conservatives came to power.

Ms Patel told the Mail: "I've always felt the Conservative Party is the party of the police and police officers.

"Quite frankly, with more police officers out there and greater police presence, I want [criminals] to literally feel terror at the thought of committing offences."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mr Johnson and Ms Patel met police in Birmingham when they announced details of the recruitment plan

She added: "My focus now is restating our commitment to law and order and restating our commitment to the people on the front line, the police.

"The key thing is that we empower them to stop criminality."

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said evidence showed that "a public health approach" was needed to reduce violent crime, rather than the Tories' "tough" approach.

"In this country we have prided ourselves on policing by consent," she said.

"We need more officers and resources for the police to work with our communities, not to risk alienating them with draconian powers."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Ed Davey said Ms Patel's comments showed she was "out of touch" with what was leading some young people into crime.

"So often, young people say they carry knives because they are afraid of other young people in gangs," he said.

"We need more police so these young people can feel less afraid, as they now trust the police to be there, not because the police add to their fears."

Asked about her views on capital punishment - after she previously made comments in support of it - Ms Patel said: "I have never said I'm an active supporter of it and [what I said] is constantly taken out of context."

In 2011, Ms Patel spoke about the death penalty on the BBC's Question Time, where she said: "I do actually think when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in this country and where we have seen murderers, rapists and people who have committed the most abhorrent crimes in society, go into prison and then are released from prison to go out into the community to then re-offend and do the types of crime they have committed again and again.

"I think that's appalling. And actually on that basis alone I would actually support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent."

Ms Patel was elected as MP for Witham in 2010.

She held ministerial posts in the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions, before being promoted international development secretary by Theresa May.

But she left the international development role in 2017 after holding unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials.

Since then, the prominent Brexiteer has been on the backbenches and supported Mr Johnson in the Conservative leadership contest.

The campaign to hire 20,000 more police officers will begin in September, Downing Street has previously said.

Earlier this week, the Home Affairs Committee said schools in areas with a higher risk of youth violence should be given dedicated police officers.

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