Take back our streets

Keir Starmer talk to a police officer by a beach.

How Labour will take back our streets:

  • Crack down on antisocial behaviour with more neighbourhood police
  • Tough new penalties for offenders
  • A plan to get knives off our streets
  • A specialist rape unit in every police force
  • A new network of Young Futures hubs

Labour has a straightforward vision for policing and criminal justice.

When you call the police, they should come. When you report a crime, it should be properly investigated no matter who you are, or where you live. Police should have the trust of communities. Victims must have faith that justice will be delivered, and criminals will be punished. Prisons should not be academies of crime. These are not outlandish expectations. They are the basics of a safe, secure, law-abiding society.

Sadly, this vision is a world away from Britain today. Our sense of security has been badly eroded. Serious violence is too high. Growing numbers of young people are drawn into gangs, drug dealing and violence at ever earlier ages. Antisocial behaviour blights our town and city centres. Fewer criminals are being caught and punished. More victims are being let down.

This is not an accident, but the result of Conservative choices over the last 14 years. Community policing has been downgraded, with neighbourhood officers pulled off the beat to plug shortages elsewhere, weakening connections with communities they serve. Trust in the police has been undermined by failures in vetting and appalling misconduct of some officers. Powers to combat antisocial behaviour and shoplifting have been weakened, leaving our town centres exposed. Our justice system has been allowed to grind to a halt.

This must change. Labour will restore neighbourhood policing with thousands of extra officers, and we will equip officers with the powers they need. We will tackle the epidemic of serious violence, with a greater focus on prevention, including by holding those companies and executives cashing in on knife crime personally to account. We will no longer tolerate the violence against women and girls that stains our society. And we will reform the justice system to put the needs of victims first, tackle the prisons crisis and cut reoffending.

In short, Labour will stop the Conservative chaos and return law and order to our streets.

Labour’s first steps: Cracking down on antisocial behaviour

Visible neighbourhood policing was the cornerstone of the British consent-based model. In too many areas it has been eroded, leaving the police a reactive service focused on crisis response, rather than preventing crime.

Labour will introduce a new Neighbourhood Policing Guarantee, restoring patrols to our town centres by recruiting thousands of new police officers, police and community support officers, and special constables. Communities and residents will have a named officer to turn to when things go wrong.

These new recruits will be paid for by tackling waste through a new Police Efficiency and Collaboration programme for England and Wales. The programme will set nation-wide standards for procurement and establish shared services and specialist functions to drive down costs.

Antisocial behaviour is not merely a ‘low-level’ nuisance. It hits the poorest communities hardest and, if left unchecked, leads to more serious offending. Yet, the Conservatives weakened enforcement powers. Labour will fix this by introducing new Respect Orders – powers to ban persistent adult offenders from town centres, which will stamp out issues such as public drinking and drug use. Fly-tippers and vandals will also be forced to clean up the mess they have created.

With shoplifting soaring, retail workers increasingly find themselves in harm’s way. Labour will scrap the effective immunity for some shoplifting introduced by the Conservatives and create a new specific offence for assaults on shopworkers that will protect them from threats and violence.

Community police officer with policeman walking through crowd at fair showing police labels in Welsh and English

Knife crime has been rising for a decade, claiming far too many young lives. It is a national crisis, requiring urgent action. Yet, under the Conservatives, too often when a teenager is found with a knife, nothing happens, and carrying a knife becomes normalised. There are virtually no services for vulnerable teenagers at risk of being drawn into a life of violence. The next Labour government will change this. We aim to halve knife crime in a decade.

Labour will end the practice of empty warnings by ensuring knife carrying triggers rapid intervention and tough consequences. Every young person caught in possession of a knife will be referred to a Youth Offending Team and will receive a mandatory plan to prevent reoffending, with penalties including curfews, tagging, and custody for the most serious cases.

To get knives off our streets Labour will ban ninja swords, lethal zombie-style blades and machetes, and strengthen rules to prevent online sales. Executives of online companies that flout these rules will be personally held to account through tough sanctions.

Labour will intervene earlier to stop young people being drawn into crime, creating a new Young Futures programme with a network of hubs reaching every community. These hubs will have youth workers, mental health support workers, and careers advisers on hand to support young people’s mental health and avoid them being drawn into crime.

We will not wait for those at risk to come forward. Local prevention partnerships will identify young people who could be drawn into violence and intervene. And to offer young people a pathway out of violence, we will place youth workers and mentors in A&E units and Pupil Referral Units, funded by full recovery of the cost of firearm licensing.

Labour will also introduce a new offence of criminal exploitation of children, to go after the gangs who are luring young people into violence and crime.

“This was preventable. It’s the result of police cuts and the Conservatives serving themselves.”

Nour: sister, aunt and campaigner for Raneem’s law

For too long, violence against women and girls has been ignored. Our landmark mission to halve violence against women and girls in a decade will require a national effort. We will use every government tool available to target perpetrators and address the root causes of abuse and violence.

That starts with tougher enforcement and protection. With Labour, there will be specialist rape and sexual offences teams in every police force. The most prolific and harmful perpetrators will be relentlessly targeted, using tactics normally reserved for terrorists and organised crime.

Prosecution rates for rape are shamefully low with many victims dropping out of the justice system when faced with years of delays. Labour will fast-track rape cases, with specialist courts at every Crown Court location in England and Wales.

Victims deserve better support. Building on the success of the approach adopted by Labour Police and Crime Commissioners, we will introduce domestic abuse experts in 999 control rooms so that victims can talk directly to a specialist, and ensure there is a legal advocate in every police force area to advise victims from the moment of report to trial.

Violence and abuse against women and girls does not come from nowhere. Misogyny is one root cause, and therefore Labour will ensure schools address misogyny and teach young people about healthy relationships and consent. We will ensure police forces have the powers they need to track and tackle the problem.

Stalking has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves. Labour will strengthen the use of Stalking Protection Orders and give women the right to know the identity of online stalkers. Spiking is a devastating crime for victims, leaving many women feeling vulnerable when they go out. Labour will introduce a new criminal offence for spiking to help police better respond to this crime.

We will strengthen the rights and protections available to women in co-habiting couples, as well as for whistleblowers in the workplace, including on sexual harassment.

Keir Starmer and Yvette Cooper talk to police officers in Milton Keynes.

Under the Conservatives, poor policing performance has been tolerated, with forces spending years in special measures. Trust in the police has been undermined by the appalling acts of some officers. Labour will turn the page and raise standards by reforming the police.

Labour will give His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Services new powers to intervene with failing forces. We will introduce mandatory professional standards on vetting, checks and misconduct for individual officers; and stronger training on racism and violence against women and girls. Anyone with a history of violence against women and girls will be barred from the service and we will introduce automatic suspensions if officers are investigated for domestic abuse and sexual offences. Particular care is required when investigating children. Labour will introduce new legal safeguards around strip-searching children and young people.

Fraud accounts for almost two in five crimes, but the Conservatives have failed to respond to the scale of the challenge. Labour will introduce a new expanded fraud strategy to tackle the full range of threats, including online, public sector and serious fraud. We will work with technology companies to stop their platforms being exploited by fraudsters.

Criminals never stop looking for new ways to target victims. Police must change the way they operate too, with technology and investigative techniques keeping pace with modern threats. We will work with national policing bodies and police staff to standardise approaches to procurement, IT, professional standards and training. And we will ensure the service is organised so as to enable investment in specialist capabilities, such as digital forensics, and to more effectively tackle cross-border issues such as serious organised crime.

“Labour has serious and credible plans to take back our streets, with ambitious missions to halve serious violence – including knife crime – finally tackle the scrouge of violence against women and girls, and rebuild public confidence in policing by getting bobbies back on the beat. These plans will require us to do things differently and to work hard to offer better protection to our communities. But they can only happen if you vote for them.”

– Gavin Thomas, Former Detective Chief Superintendent and Former President of the Police Superintendents Association

A police car passes a lane on Crow Road in Jordanhill, Glasgow.

Under the Conservatives, plummeting charge and prosecution rates have emboldened criminals. Rather than working together, police and prosecutors often engage in a blame game, which lets down victims.

Labour will reverse this, driving up the proportion of crimes solved by reducing barriers to bringing charges, cutting bureaucracy, and improving collaboration. We will make it easier for high-performing police forces to charge domestic abuse suspects to speed up the process.

Labour recognises recruitment challenges, particularly for detectives, so we will roll out a direct entry scheme for detectives to boost investigation skills.

Lady Justice on top of Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales in London.

After 14 years of neglect, the criminal justice system is broken. Victims wait months, sometimes years, for their case to come to trial, unable to move on with their lives. As an initial step to address the courts backlog, Labour will ensure more prosecutors are available by allowing Associate Prosecutors to work on appropriate cases.

We will introduce new protections for victims of crime and persistent antisocial behaviour, by increasing the powers of the Victims’ Commissioner, and ensuring victims can access the information and support they need.

Even when criminals are found guilty, the sentences they receive often do not make sense either to victims or the wider public. This is particularly worrying for offences against women and girls. Labour will carry out a review of sentencing to ensure it is brought up to date.

Keir Starmer talking to two Police Community Support Officers.

Prisons in England and Wales are in crisis. The Conservatives’ failure to build sufficient places has led to overcrowding and chaos. Judges are being advised to delay sentencing. Prisoners are being released early. And fewer dangerous criminals are locked up because of a lack of space.

The Conservatives have failed to get prisons built. Labour recognises that prisons are of national importance and therefore will use all relevant powers to build the prisons so badly needed.

As a result of overcrowding, our prisons are increasingly dangerous, plagued by drug use and violent disorder – putting prison officers in a dangerous position. Far from being places where offenders are punished and rehabilitated, prisons are a breeding ground for more crime. Prison leavers are more likely to reoffend if they do not have the tools to move away from crime, if they have nowhere to live and if they do not have a job on release.

Labour will act to reduce reoffending. We will work with prisons to improve offenders’ access to purposeful activity, such as learning, and ensure they create pre-release plans for those leaving custody. We will support prisons to link up with local employers and the voluntary sector to get ex-offenders into work. The children of those who are imprisoned are at far greater risk of being drawn into crime than their peers. We will ensure that those young people are identified and offered support to break the cycle.

After 14 years of chaotic reorganisations, the national probation service is struggling to keep the public safe. A lack of co-ordination between prisons, probation and other local services also means prison-leavers are not getting the right support, raising the risk that they go straight back to crime.

In some areas of the country, we have seen Labour Mayors pioneering a more joined-up approach to reduce reoffending. In Greater Manchester, probation is linked up with housing and health services to ensure offenders leaving custody receive the support they need. Labour will conduct a strategic review of probation governance, including considering the benefits of devolved models.

Under the Conservatives, too many victims of historical injustices have had insult added to injury by years of legal delays. Without justice and the truth, victims and their families cannot move forward. Labour will right this wrong, act on the findings of the Infected Blood Inquiry, and respond to the findings of the Grenfell Inquiry and the Covid-19 Inquiry, to ensure swift resolution.

Labour will introduce a ‘Hillsborough Law’ which will place a legal duty of candour on public servants and authorities, and provide legal aid for victims of disasters or state-related deaths. We will ensure the victims of the appalling Windrush scandal have their voices heard and the compensation scheme is run effectively, with a new Windrush Commissioner. Labour will also ensure, through an investigation or inquiry, that the truth about the events at Orgreave comes to light.