'Every department should be a criminal justice department': cabinet committee to lead crime crackdown

Prime minister will head up group leading government's efforts to cut drug trafficking and knife crime

Robert Buckland arrives at yesterday's cabinet meeting, where he reportedly said "every department should be a criminal justice department". Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images

Government departments could gain extra responsibilities to tackle crime, in a crackdown being led by the prime minister.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland reportedly told ministers yesterday that "every department should be a criminal justice department", as Boris Johnson revealed he will head up a cabinet committee aimed at combating knife crime and serious violence in a bid to restore the Conservatives' reputation as the party of law and order.

The committee on criminal justice will be modelled on a similar format used for key Brexit decisions and will include home secretary Priti Patel, attorney general Geoffrey Cox and chancellor Sajid Javid as well as Buckland and Johnson, The Times reports


According to The Times, it will aim to make sure all Whitehall ministries play their part in tackling crime.

Speaking alongside Buckland at yesterday's cabinet meeting, Patel reportedly vowed to "cut the head off the snake" and toughen Britain's borders in bid to to halt a flow of drugs into the country.

The move came as Johnson vowed to eradicate "county-lines" gangs, who often use children to distribute drugs sold over the phone or online to different parts of the country.

The prime minister told the BBC: "I want to see crime come down. I want to see the county lines drugs gangs wound up. They are reducing the quality of life for people across our country, they are killing young kids."

Johnson has already vowed to set up a wide-ranging Royal Commission on the criminal justice process, with The Times reporting that its launch could come next month.

"He said that [the Conservative Party has] historically been strong on law and order but in recent years been less clear on it," a cabinet source told the paper.

"He said that he wanted a return to clarity on it and addressing the concerns of the British public.”

The promised crackdown comes as the government battles a surge in knife crime, which is currently at its highest level on record, with some 44,076 offences involving a knife logged last year.

A Home Office document leaked in 2018 found cuts to police numbers since 2010 had helped to fuel an increase in violent crime as cuts to resources and charge rates had "encouraged offenders".

The report found that although resource pressure was not the “main driver”, it had "likely contributed".

Police funding warning

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, has meanwhile urged ministers to oversee a radical shake-up of police funding – which is overseen by the Home Office – as the government seeks to live up to its election promise to put 20,000 more officers on the beat.

Police Federation chairman John Apter told the PA News agency that forces needed "at least" a decade of funding certainty as he called for an end to annual reviews of their resources.

Speaking ahead of the Budget, which is slated for March 11, Apter said: "The chancellor – who was the home secretary before – he knows. He’s told me he understands the pressures, the difficulties that policing has been under.

"Well, he’s now got to deliver."

And he added: “I am pinning an awful lot of hope into what this current government are saying.

"Some people are calling me naive for doing that but we’ve got to start somewhere and I will work with this new government, with the prime minister, with the home secretary, until they give me cause not to, and at the moment the relationship is a good one."

Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "The government urgently needs to explain how they are going to make good on their manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 additional officers and what resources they are going to provide. 

"There is a danger that the pledge on police numbers goes the same way as the pledge on nurses, where new recruits are not extra police at all. This would be another Tory failure on policing, after they were responsible for this crisis by axing more than 20,000 police officers."

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