It’s National Crime Week and so far we have seen several announcements from the Home Office that affect policing in Dorset. I’d like to take this opportunity to talk to you further about each of these announcements and what they mean for policing in Dorset.
New offence for carrying knives and machetes I know that knife crime is a high concern for many Dorset residents – so I am pleased that the issue of knife crime is on the Home Office’s agenda and welcome the announcement that they plan to ban more weapons and introduce a new offence for those found in possession. Under these plans, the maximum sentence for the importation, manufacturing, possession and sale of the weapons will be two years and there will be a new offence for possessing bladed articles with the intention to endanger life or cause fear of violence. Police will also have new powers to seize and destroy knives found to be intended for such uses.
The government will also be expanding the definition of zombie knives, which were made illegal in 2016, to include any bladed weapon more than eight inches long with a plain-cutting edge and sharp pointed end that also has either a serrated cutting edge, more than one hole in the blade or multiple sharp points like spikes. This means that certain machetes will now also be banned, under the new definition. I welcome these changes and hope that they will make it more difficult for offenders to get a hold of dangerous weapons and allow the police to persecute those who supply and sell them.
I hope that Dorset’s communities will be reassured that with these changes, violent criminality will face the punishments it deserves, and lives will be saved. Investigating all reasonable lines of inquiry Last week the Home Office wrote a letter to all Chief Constables, Police and Crime Commissioners, the National Police Chiefs Council and the Association of Police and Crime and Commissioners calling for all reasonable lines of enquiries to be investigated when forces deal with crimes.
All forces rely on public intelligence to help build evidence, understand where and when crimes are happening and inform resourcing decisions. However, when the public feels that the information they provide is not acted on, confidence in policing is damaged and in turn, the public stops reporting crimes.
I completely agree that the public should not just be given a crime number when reporting to the police and that there is no such thing as a minor crime. When you are the victim of a crime, whether it is theft, ASB or assault, there can be a detrimental impact on your life. Therefore, I am pleased to see Dorset Police, join other forces across the UK, and commit to following all reasonable lines of enquiry for all crime types, and strengthen police visibility and responsiveness. I am also pleased that the NPCC has released updated effective investigation guidelines in order to further improve investigation standards and deliver even more consistency across forces, ultimately improving the service victims receive.
In Dorset, officers already make frequent use of footage available from CCTV, dashcams and smart doorbells to help identify suspects and place them at the scene of the crime and I look forward to seeing more of this style of innovative investigating using new and emerging technology as officers ensure they investigate all lines of enquiry. Home Office Dismissals Review In Dorset, we often talk about the ‘relentless pursuit of criminals’ and that priority doesn’t just apply to the outside world – it directly applies to all officers and all staff.
Let me be crystal clear – there is absolutely no place in Dorset or any other police service for those that break the law. I am reassured to see the Home Office announce new policies around police misconduct, such as the automatic dismissal of anyone found guilty of gross misconduct and a statutory requirement for officers to hold vetting. It was also announced that the Home Office plans to transfer the authority to have the final say on officer dismals back to the chief constable, instead of the current independent system where the power sits with a legally qualified chair. Handing back the control to senior police officers could be seen as a double edged sword leaving forces open to the accusation of marking their own homework so I really welcome the fact that the Chief Constable will chair an independent misconduct panel for gross misconduct including an independent legal advisor. This will make such matters more transparent – if the current system manifestly needs change – what comes next must be above reproach.
This newsletter is in two parts, early next week, I will pick up on some more of the announcements made by the Home Office and give you an update on what will be a busy policing weekend across the county.
David Sidwick Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner