Violent Crime in London (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
December 9, 2014
Question By: 
Andrew Boff
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)


Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I mean you will forgive us for concentrating on this particular area because our job as Assembly Members is to see where it is going wrong, not where it is often going right.  While the decline in overall reported crime is welcome, it is disturbing that we have these particular categories increasing.


I wondered if you would be supportive of the recommendations in a report published by the Greater London Authority (GLA) Conservatives in June called On the Wagon, whereby we wanted to see a doubling of the penalty notice for drunk and disorderly behaviour from £90 to £180.  Would you be supportive of that?

Supplementary To: 


Answer for Violent Crime in London (Supplementary) [1]

Answer for Violent Crime in London (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)

That sounds interesting.  If that would make a big difference to this kind of crime I would certainly be willing to look at that.  As you know, one of the things we have tried is the alcohol detector anklets that we are trialling out in Croydon I think to stop people drinking again and being responsible again for domestic abuse.  It may be that such a measure would be useful also in fighting domestic VWI because we think that the increase in reporting of domestic VWI is responsible for about 25% of this spike that we are seeing.  Anyway, I am very happy to look at it.


Andrew Boff AM:  Could you also, therefore, Mr Mayor, look at the idea - again proposed in that report - that we increase the use of sobriety incentives, where we --


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Sobriety centres?


Andrew Boff AM:  Sobriety incentives, and we suggest three centres being established in London, plus the use of booze buses to deal with particular hot spots of public drunkenness that occur around London.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  All such measures focused on the hot spots I think should be considered.  I know that the MPS is looking now at some of the key hot spots and there are a few of them around the city where we think a large chunk of this VWI is taking place.


Andrew Boff AM:  We are entering a period where there is a peak in public drunkenness, up until Christmas, and I hope that you will acquaint yourself with the figures over this Christmas period to see whether or not these solutions that we have offered will be decisive, they will actually pay for themselves.  As you know, we are not a Group that happily proposes things that are not going to pay for themselves and we have established within that report, which I urge you to read, that these measures will ultimately cost less than --


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am sure they would.  One thing that we think - and Sir Bernard may correct me - but it was explained to me the other day by one borough commander, who said that he thinks it is the change in the law that means that, when someone reports domestic VWI, for instance, and then retracts it, then says, “It was nothing really”, that is no longer permitted, you can no longer ignore that, you have to record it.  You have to record it whatever happens.  I think it was put to me the other day that could be a factor that is driving up these numbers, but Bernard is there something you want to --


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I think the other thing, it seems to me that the growth we have seen has to be understood first of all in one context, which is 95% of this extra violence is regarded as slight or moderate.  Now, any violence is bad, therefore I am never going to diminish the size of it, therefore it is not the serious violence we are talking about.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is not showing up in the figures.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I think a third of it, we think, is domestic violence reporting broadly, we have another third, which is down to better recording.  Frankly we were challenged by Her Majesty's Inspectorate, were we recording accurately, therefore we are making sure that we are recording better.  The third area, which is where we are targeting, where we can do something definite and practical about it is about public town centre violence and that often is associated with drunkenness.  Therefore the Equinox Operation we have running is targeting the 25 most violent licensed venues, the 25 most violent fast food outlets, across London.  As you say, obviously coming up to the Christmas period, we have another challenge, however this operation is keeping on going.  We are having protective weapons sweeps through those areas and we are supporting that with Territorial Support Group (TSG) as well as borough-based.


The idea is to target what we think the problem is, however to go to the Mayor’s point, if you look for another independent view about whether violence has got worse or better, London Ambulance Service (LAS) say they are carrying broadly the same number of people to hospital who have been submitted to violence.  Of course that tends to be at the more serious end, however it is one indicator that it is part recording, I think, and partly something serious that we have to deal with.


Andrew Boff AM:  Places recognise that because, just recently, I attended an event in Redbridge regarding domestic violence and there the professionals are indicating that they think that this is not just about increased reporting; that this is about an increase in domestic violence, and that is very worrying and I would ask that you do liaise with the professionals based at Redbridge Council to get their view on this particular matter, because it is always tempting to say this is just as a result of increased reporting, and I get that, and often in many headings that is the case.  However there are some professionals on the ground, and I believe that can be also confirmed by the very good independent domestic violence advisers in Croydon as well who also I believe seem to think that this is a genuine increase.  Therefore I do ask that you look at that.


Just, if I may press on, I issued a report, again a GLA Conservatives report, issued a report two years ago called Silence on Violence regarding the policing of sex work.  That report concluded that, while there was some very good practice going on in borough police, not with regard to the MPS who has a good record in this area; however it tended to be patchy.  Would Sir Bernard be supportive of the adoption of certain standards and professional protocols for policing sex work in the boroughs?


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Do you want to explain to me a minimum standard, therefore it seems to me a good idea that we have a minimum standard.  We have a broad strategy, which is about obviously first of all you can target education and health as part of the deal with the sex worker as a victim.  There is also a layer, which is about obviously, having been warned, then people obviously have to be, if they are going to be prosecuted, if they will not desist from that action, however equally it is to attack the demand, which is to make sure that the men - usually - who are seeking this trade are prosecuted where they are persistently loitering around trying to contact prostitutes.  Those are the big ways we do it.


Then the second side is obviously the organised crime.  Clearly much of this activity takes place off the street.  The nuisance of it being on the street is one issue, however much of it is carried out off the street and then it becomes an organised crime issue, which obviously often goes with drug supply as well as human trafficking.


Andrew Boff AM:  Yes.  I would be interested in seeing the evidence that you would have in supporting the view that off-street prostitution is predominantly as a result of human trafficking because that is data I have been trying --


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Sorry, I did not say that, Andrew.  I did not say it was predominantly as a result, I said it was linked to.  That was fairly straightforward I think and everybody accepts that.


Andrew Boff AM:  Without doubt that does happen.  Also, I hope that, in the policing of the sector of on-street sex work that you do engage with those professional agencies, such as the very remarkable Spires [Spires Streetlink sex worker outreach service] that works in the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, and I was very privileged to be with them very late the Friday before last night, seeing the problems for myself of street prostitution on Brixton Hill, and the professionals there are asking that the police do not just attack the punters, because that is an unjoined-up form of protecting the interests of these very vulnerable people.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  When you say “the punters”, you mean the clients?


Andrew Boff AM:  The clients.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  All right.


Andrew Boff AM:  That there must be a much more victim-centred approach from borough police as well.  I know that in the MPS you have a very well-developed sense of what the whole range of issues are when we are talking about prostitution in general, it is much easier than just a moral judgement, however that when you do decide to pursue the clients or the customers that you do liaise with those non-governmental organisations (NGO) that are working on the ground with these very vulnerable women.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  All right, I would probably need to understand that more because, at the end of the day, those people are committing quite a clear offence and they are creating a demand.  The challenge for us, as you know as well, is that quite often we do not respond because the police are wanting to intervene, it is because the public are complaining.


Andrew Boff AM:  Yes, that is the case, however that is not always --


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  What they then say is, “What are you, the police, doing about it?”  They are not terribly interested in what everybody else is doing about it.  Therefore we often find that there is nobody coming running to help us to explain what we are doing about it.


Andrew Boff AM:  At no point am I asking you not to do your job.  I am asking you, however, to base your job upon evidence and putting the victim at the centre of those priorities.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I am not quite sure what you mean by that, if you mean that, in relation to the clients --


Andrew Boff AM:  Let us take an example.  Let us take, for example, whereby there have been, in the past, raids upon clients of street prostitution, and it might have cleared out the problem and made it less attractive to those punters, the clients of those street prostitutes.  However, unless it is also followed up with NGOs who have links to those women on the streets, then all that is going to do is shift the problem to somewhere else.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  All right, and then therefore?


Andrew Boff AM:  It is going to shift the problem to somewhere else and, if you are going to take such action, to be able to link with those NGOs who are working directly with those women, such as Spires, that you need to link with them before you take any such operation because, to just go in and enforce could mean that those women become even more vulnerable than they are already.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  All right, I mean the way you started, which I agree that we need to work with many bodies about this.  However I really need to understand more about people committing criminal offences who are causing nuisance to businesses as well as individuals.


Andrew Boff AM:  Yes, I get that.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Let me just develop it, because I listened carefully.


Andrew Boff AM:  Yes.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I would need to understand more before I reserved our position about negotiating about when we enforce the law.


Andrew Boff AM:  There is absolutely no dispute about complaints.  It is when proactive policing comes into play on the basis of local political priorities that then results in a much more dangerous environment for very vulnerable women.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Which we would not want to do.


Andrew Boff AM:  I know you would not want to, however the report that I published two years ago and my experiences from since then have indicated that is not a uniform approach throughout London and that is what I am asking you for that we have the same professionalism in every borough.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  We are agreeing on a consistent approach.  I am not sure we are agreeing on the tactics yet.


Andrew Boff AM:  It is not the tactics.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I am saying that; I am just being clear what I am not necessarily agreeing to.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do not think I fully understand what we are being asked to do.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  However I would want to understand it better, quite happy to understand it better.