MPs have clashed over the explosive findings of the Casey review into the Metropolitan Police, which found the force is institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic.
The Home Secretary accused Labour of “political point-scoring,” after Yvette Cooper expressed concerns over what she described as Suella Braverman’s “dangerously complacent” response to the review. Braverman also said the Mayor of London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, has ultimate responsibility for the service.
The review has prompted a major outcry among politicians from all parties, with one Conservative calling for the force to be disbanded, while campaigners including Stephen Lawrence’s mother Doreen, have also spoken out about the report’s findings.
‘Institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic’
There has been some dispute over the term “institutional”, which Baroness Casey used to describe the force in terms of its failings on racism, misogyny and homophobia.
While Sir Mark said he accepted Casey’s diagnosis of the issue, he would not use the term because it has become politicised and means different things to different people.
Asked whether Sunak thought the Met was “institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic”, No 10 said actions were more important than language, with the PM’s official spokesman saying: “I haven’t asked him about that specific word. But certainly we believe it is the actions that are vitally important here. The public want tangible change, not just talk.”
Meanwhile, Labour called a press conference for this afternoon (21 March) to announce its response to the review and the party’s wider approach to policing and crime issues.
The Labour leader promised mandatory, nationally set police vetting, to ensure only those who are fit to serve are able to become police officer.
He also pledged a new focus on standards of leadership and training, alongside a renewed emphasis on tackling crime through neighbourhood policing, as part of a package of measures to tackle the toxic culture revealed in the Casey Review.
In a statement prior to the conference, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “The racist, sexist and homophobic abuses of power that have run rife in the Metropolitan Police have shattered the trust that Britain’s policing relies on and let victims down.
“For 13 years there has been a void of leadership from the Home Office, which has seen Britain’s policing fall far below the standards the public have the right to expect. The scale of change required is vast. But the lessons I witnessed from policing reform in Northern Ireland show that it can be done.”
In the Commons, Suella Braverman said the Metropolitan Police plays a “big role in our country” but there have been “growing concerns” around its performance and ability to “command the confidence and trust of Londoners”.
Making a statement on the review, the Home Secretary said: “The Metropolitan Police service plays a big role in our country, tackling crime throughout the capital and keeping nine million Londoners safe, preventing terrorism nationally and managing significant threats to our capital and country.
“I back the police. I trust them to put their safety before ours, to step into danger, to protect the most vulnerable, to support all of us at our most fearful, painful and tragic moments. Many of us can never imagine the challenges that regular police officers face every day.
She added: “But there have been growing concerns around the performance of the Metropolitan Police and its ability to command the confidence and trust of Londoners. This follows a series of abhorrent cases of officers who betrayed the public’s trust and hideously abused their powers.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the report is “thorough, forensic and truly damning”, telling MPs: “It finds consent is broken, management of the force has failed, frontline policing – especially neighbourhood policing – has been deprioritised and degraded after a decade of austerity in which the Met has ended up with £0.7 billion less than at the beginning of the decade.
“It finds the Met is failing women and children, that predatory and unacceptable behaviour has been allowed to flourish and it finds institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia.”
Cooper said Labour supports the work Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley is doing to “start turning the Met around”, adding: “He and his team must go much further in response to the Casey review.
“But I am concerned that the Home Secretary’s statement is dangerously complacent. Astonishingly there is no new action set out in her response, simply words saying that the Met must change. This is a continuation of the hands-off Home Office response that Baroness Casey criticises in her report.
“Some of the issues raised are particular to the Met because of its size, history, particular culture, where the Home Secretary and Mayor are jointly responsible for oversight and where the commissioner is responsible for delivering. But the report also raises serious wider issues for the Home Office.”
The Home Secretary attracted groans from the Opposition benches when she said she was disappointed by Labour’s response to findings about the Metropolitan Police.
Responding to Cooper, Braverman told the Commons: “I must say that I am disappointed… by her tone. Today is not a day for crass political point-scoring; it is a day for serious and sober consideration of the Met’s shortcomings and how those shortcomings have a devastating impact on people’s lives.”
She later added: “I would point out to the shadow home secretary that her crass political attacks really would be more accurately directed at the person with actual and political responsibility for overseeing the performance of the Met. That is the Mayor of London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan.”
Tory MP: ‘Abolish the Met’
Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon, told the Commons: “The immediate political acceptance of Baroness Casey’s report demonstrates that nothing has changed since the publication of the Macpherson Report 24 years ago and many think the report in itself is a panacea to change.
“Does the Home Secretary not agree with me it’d be more effective to abolish the Metropolitan Police Service, transfer the specialist operations to the remit of the Home Office and establish a police service for London to focus solely on the maintenance of law and order?”
Braverman replied: “I don’t agree that we must abolish the Metropolitan Police Service.
“I think we need to institute a wide-ranging and profound programme of reform and that’s why I think Sir Mark is absolutely right in his turnaround plan, which deals with specifically the systemic problems, the problems now which are unfortunately not new but of which we are all aware need root-and-branch reform.”
Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price criticised the misogyny faced by serving female police officers from their male colleagues, telling MPs: “That is simply unacceptable that such behaviour is normalised in the service that is supposed to keep us safe.”
Addressing the Home Secretary, she added: “Can I just say to her, if she is serious about tackling violence against women and girls, it simply isn’t adequate to come to this despatch box and say it will take many years to fix the problems within the Met.”
Braverman replied: “I agree with her that we need to make progress on improving protection and results for victims of rape and serious sexual offences. That is why we have instituted a programme of reform when it comes to the investigation or prosecution of rape.”