The future of the Metropolitan Police Service (Supplementary) [6]

Session date: 
July 6, 2017
Question By: 
Andrew Dismore
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Andrew Dismore AM:  Would you agree that neighbourhood policing is a key part of the ‘golden thread’ in the collection of intelligence about the fight against terrorism?


Answer for The future of the Metropolitan Police Service (Supplementary) [6]

Answer for The future of the Metropolitan Police Service (Supplementary) [6]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Yes.


Andrew Dismore AM:  As you know, amongst the many neighbourhoods and communities in my constituency, I represent the largest Jewish community in the country.  Unlike some who have recently spoken about it, I have campaigned for well over a decade for the complete proscription of Hezbollah as the distinction between its so-called political and military wings is utterly bogus.


Would you agree that it is important that terrorist-supporting organisations such as Hezbollah, which we saw at the recent Al Quds [Day] march, have no place in our city?  On behalf of my constituents, could I ask you to make strong and urgent representations to the Home Secretary to make the long-overdue decision to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety as it has been in so many other countries?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes, I am happy to make representations to the Home Secretary in support of your representations.  I will just put on record the fact that you have been consistent on this issue for a number of years now whether the Government is a Labour Government or a Conservative Government.  You have been consistent on this issue whether the Mayor is a Conservative Mayor or a Labour Mayor.


What Londoners will not forgive - and we saw this last May [2016] in the mayoral elections - is politicians who suddenly start paying attention to this issue and, because the Mayor happens to be someone called ‘Sadiq Khan’, starts raising issues that you have been raising for a number of years.  Those same politicians have been silent over the last seven years when it has been a Conservative Government not proscribing the Hezbollah wing that you are talking about.  Those same politicians have been silent over the last seven years in relation to proscribing marches when there has been a Conservative Home Secretary and those same politicians have been silent when the Mayor is not somebody called ‘Sadiq Khan’.  Londoners are not stupid.


Of course I will write to the Home Secretary as a consequence of your very important representations and also as [you are] somebody who has been a champion for that community, who feel vulnerable, who feel scared, who feel frightened, who feel the ripples of hatred when there are these marches taking place.  Look, I campaigned to be a Mayor for all Londoners.  I intend to be a Mayor for all Londoners.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Can I address my question firstly to the Deputy Commissioner, Mayor?  It is a shared concerned that I know a number of Members have regarding the increasing figures related to acid attacks.  For example, data released by the MPS showed the number of reported attacks in London rose from 261 in 2015 to 454 in 2016.  That is a rise of about 74%.


Can the Deputy Commissioner briefly tell us about the approach of the MPS to this crime?  Secondly, is the increase in this type of crime related to the ease of purchasing acid?


Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Thank you, Chair.  There are a number of things that might help in terms of this.  We have done some analysis of both the suspects and the people who are predominantly the victims of this.  It might just help people understand some of the profile of this.


About 80% of victims and about 82% of suspects are male, which we would probably expect.  About a quarter of the corrosive substance, ‘flag’ as we call it, – i.e. there is a corrosive substance used in it - are personal robberies.  About 60% are linked to assaults, including domestic violence, and 30% of victims in 2016 were Asian, and the key victim group is 15-to-29 years of age.  We are seeing some links to individuals who appear on the gang matrix.


Whilst I cannot evidence this, there is some anecdotal information that says that as we get harder on knives and guns, people look for other means of doing things, but I could not produce hard evidence to support that.  That is a feeling.


What have we been doing?  There is work going on at a borough level that is co‑ordinated by Commander Dave Musker in terms of the work that is going on around some of those attacks.  We have a superintendent in our Specialist Crime Command working with colleagues in the Home Office because, sadly, as so many of these things are, this is not just a London experience.  We have seen a real growth in these sorts of attacks across the country, often, as I said, in a domestic violence context.  What we are doing is working with the Home Office and other enforcement colleagues to look at how we deal with this consistently.


Some of that is around the bits we can do, the absolute pursue, but as your question indicated, Chair, some of that is also about talking about whether we need the strength of some of these substances available on the shelves to be buy.  Should there be restrictions, limits and regulations around that?  That goes all the way through to whether we have the right powers to be able to search for these.  What are the powers we can use when - I will make it up - we stop a car on a normal road check in London and find battery acid in the boot?  That could mean that they have a problem with their vehicle or it could mean that there is something else.  We have to be really clear about that.


We are working, as I said, with the Home Office and other colleagues and people are very alive to the emerging risk around it.  We need more help from communities.  When people are seeing or hearing these things, tell us.  We will step in, we will deal and we will address those individual perpetrators.  Those are the things we can do.  We can address the people who offend and will do it.  As I said, at a national level, we are working on this with the Home Office and, again, will look at those things we can do to protect people, to pursue against it and, most importantly, to prevent these things happening.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  I am just wondering whether you should look at the volume.  If you go to a chemist, you are limited to - I do not know - 50 paracetamols and you cannot buy 100.  You can keep going to different chemists, I suppose, but you get the point.  There is also the issue about it being clear so that, when it is being used in clubs, it is being passed through as water.  Are you looking at those sorts of areas?


Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  When I say ‘regulation’, it is a euphemism for covering a whole range of areas from whether we could mark this liquid all the way through to - I do not think we will end up there - whether we could put a DNA trace in this liquid so that we can easily trace it back to where it came from.  There are a whole range of things together with the Government and regulators that we will look at to address this issue because it is an emerging issue.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Looking at the figures, Newham, Dagenham and the constituency of my colleague, Assembly Member Desai and Mayor Biggs, I would imagine you are working quite closely in these localities?


Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Yes.  Assembly Member Desai and I have spoken quite recently on this.  The two lead Borough Commanders I know have been working very closely in terms of the issues there.  It is important that whilst that is a hotspot, we have seen these crimes across London.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Thank you.  Mr Mayor, can you quickly just reply to this comment that was made by The London Economic, which said that you were “sleeping on the job” in relation to acid attacks?  This was said in April of this year.  I do not know whether you picked that up.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I did not but ‑‑


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Can you rebut that?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ I wish I was getting enough sleep, Chair.  That is the short answer.  Acid attacks have been going up for the last few years, as the Deputy Commissioner has said.  From the figures I have, it has been going up for the last three years.  I became Mayor only 14 months ago.  It does feel like a lot longer.  The good news is, compared to knife crime and gun crime, it is far less.  I am not complacent at all.


There is a particular issue that we need to look into.  Why east London, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham?  Good news again: we have seen no evidence of there being a disproportionate amount of hate crime.  There was a horrific incident with the couple and I can understand why members of that community are so scared.  I know that Assembly Member Desai is working incredibly hard, as you mentioned, with the local politicians.


I have to explain, though - and I think the Deputy Commissioner tried to do justice to this - that they are often household goods, whether a drain unblocker, a patio cleaner.  That is why we are looking at the retail side of things as well.


Far be it for me to accuse people of being unfair, but it is a bit unfair to say that the police or I have been asleep on the job in relation to this issue.  It is a serious issue, as indeed are other issues where there are dangerous substances involved.