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Date: 15/05/2022

Andy Cooke, Her Majesty’s chief inspector (Former Chief Constable of Merseyside), said: 

"We’re not the thought police, we follow legislation and we follow the law, simple as that. Policing is busy enough dealing with the serious offences that are going on, busy enough trying to keep people safe."

"It’s important that the prioritisation that we give is to those most at risk, and that policing stays away from the politics with a small p, and the different thoughts that people have."

"Those thoughts, unless they become actions, aren’t an offence. The law is quite clear in relation to what is an offence and what isn’t an offence."

He spoke out amid controversy around some police forces treating issues such as misogyny and transphobia as hate crimes.

In the year ending March 2021, there were 124,091 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales.

Cooke said: "We’re not the thought police, we follow legislation and we follow the law, simple as that. Policing is busy enough dealing with the serious offences that are going on, busy enough trying to keep people safe"

Hate incidents' can remain on police records and could turn up on enhanced vetting checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

"Policing needs to ensure the public can have confidence that the police will take action against criminality, whatever level that is," Cooke told the Times.

"Obviously the serious criminality needs to be addressed. But right through [to] neighbourhood crimes, burglaries and car theft as well."

Cooke's predecessor, Sir Tom Winsor, previously warned against the influence of 'thought crime' on the police force, adding that chief constables must remember they 'enforce not create' the law.

The news comes after the Home Office revealed that police are solving the lowest proportion of crimes ever, with only six per cent of all crimes resulted in a charge in the year to September 2021.

The figure is equivalent to only one in 17 offences being solved, with Cooke adding crime rates were now the worst in his 36-year career.

Many crimes such as burglaries, robberies and shoplifting, and sexual offences, were going unpunished, he added.

Modern policing has become more complex because of the sophistication of modern technology, often involving cybercrime or online scams.

He also encouraged officers to help route out corrupt colleagues,

In order to regain public trust, officers need to go back to basics such as house-to-house calls and CCTV evidence.

In December 2021, former police officer Henry Miller won a landmark Court of Appeal challenge against police guidance on 'hate incidents'.

Mr Miller, who describes himself as 'gender critical', launched the legal bid after an anonymous complaint was made about dozens of allegedly 'transphobic' posts on his Twitter account concerning changes to gender recognition laws.

The 56-year-old was visited by police at work and threatened with prosecution if he did not stop discussing the issue, and was told that the matter had been recorded as a 'non-crime hate incident'.

Judge Victoria Sharp ordered the College of Policing to come up with new 'safeguards' to make sure that any future recording of non-crime hate incidents does not disproportionately interfere with the legal right to speak their mind.

The case established that recording of 'non-crime hate incidents' by police forces in England is an unlawful interference with freedom of expression.

After the ruling, Priti Patel said the home secretary will try to enshrine in law a new code of practice that controls the way officers record such incidents.

Patel confirmed in March that Andrew Cooke was her preferred candidate to become the new Chief Inspector.

Cooke was chief constable of Merseyside Police for five years, stepping down last year.

He sparked anger when he said even violent criminals are ‘not inherently bad people and that he would rather pump billions into cutting poverty than upholding the law.

But he also oversaw the jailing of dozens of multi-millionaire drug lords, gained a reputation for tough policing and for being a keen user of stop-and-search powers.

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