Today's Home Office in the media stories include the Home Affairs Committee report on serious violence, coverage of the Home Secretary's comments on Facebook encryption following the Five Eyes security summit, and calls for a criminal investigation into the police handling of Operation Midland.
Home Affairs Committee report on serious violence
There is widespread coverage this morning in print and on broadcast of the Home Affairs Committee report on serious violence. The report highlights that serious youth violence is a social emergency and the Government needs “to get a grip on the problem or more teenagers will die”.
The Policing Minister Kit Malthouse did interviews on the report with Sky, LBC, the Today Programme, Talk Radio and BBC News. On Sky, he said, “this needs to be treated as an emergency” and that “we have done a huge amount in recent years including surge in police numbers and funds through the Serious Youth Intervention Fund”. On LBC and the Today Programme, he highlighted that “we can up our game which is why we are promising 20,000 extra officers”.
The Times and Telegraph note that the report recommended that all schools in areas at risk of serious youth violence should have a dedicated police officer as part of a drive to tackle murders and knife crime.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
The Committee’s assessment fails to recognise the full range of urgent action the Government is taking to keep our communities safe – including extra police powers and resources.
The Prime Minister and Home Secretary last week announced the recruitment of 20,000 more officers and a new national policing board, which will meet for the first time today (Wednesday), to drive the response to critical issues including serious violence.
Police funding is increasing by more than £1 billion this year, including council tax and £100 million for forces worst affected by violent crime.
We have made it simpler for officers to use stop and search, and our Offensive Weapons Act will stop knives making their way onto our streets in the first place.
Home Secretary Priti Patel’s comments that Facebook’s decision to introduce end-to-end encryption on its messaging platform would hamper the fight against terrorism and child sexual abuse is the Telegraph’s splash and is also covered in the Independent, Guardian, Sun, Mirror online and Mail.
In an op-ed in the Telegraph, the Home Secretary says that encryption is “a key issue underpinning many of the emerging threats we face”, including child sexual abuse and terrorism, and that Facebook’s planned introduction “presents significant challenges which we must work collaboratively to address”.
The Daily Mail reports that following the Five Eyes meeting of security ministers, Ms Patel said Facebook introducing end-to-end encryption would prevent law enforcement agencies investigating and tracking down criminals by enabling them to hide their messages. The Telegraph says that in “the first intervention by a minister”, the Home Secretary has urged social media companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies by giving them “lawful access” to encrypted messages in exceptional cases.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
The Five Eyes are united that tech firms should not develop their systems and services, including end-to-end encryption, in ways that empower criminals or put vulnerable people at risk.
We heard today about the devastating and lifelong impact of child sexual exploitation and abuse and agreed firm commitments to collaborate to get ahead of the threat.
As Governments, protecting our citizens is our top priority, which is why through the unique and binding partnership of Five Eyes we will tackle these emerging threats together.
Operation Midland investigation
There is widespread coverage of calls for a criminal investigation into the Metropolitan Police’s handling of Operation Midland, the investigation into the “VIP paedophile ring” alleged by Carl Beech.
The Daily Mail splash is an article on former high court judge Sir Richard Henriques’ comments that police may have broken the law with Operation Midland, suggesting that detectives had used false evidence to obtain warrants to raid the homes of high-profile figures.
The Mail reports that the Independent Office for Police Complaints (IOPC) was under intense pressure last night for refusing to reopen its inquiry into five Scotland Yard officers involved in the case, insisting it had already investigated them and found “no suspicion of criminality”. The Mail says that Home Secretary Priti Patel will “haul in the head of the watchdog to demand answers about the case”, and challenge IOPC director general Michael Lockwood as to why there no proceedings against officers as soon as possible, according to a source close to the Home Secretary.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
The Home Secretary looks forward to meeting with a number of policing partners, including Michael Lockwood of the IOPC.
It is right that allegations relating to the seeking of warrants as part of Operation Midland were referred to the IOPC – the public need to have confidence that the police are exercising their powers in a correct and proportionate way.