Police 'not a civil debt recovery agency'

Wednesday, 04 November, 2015

The Chief Constable of Surrey Police, Lynne Owens, yesterday told the House of Commons Home Affairs Commitee that the police were 'not a civil debt recovery agency'.

She made the remarks in exchanges over whether the police should routinely pursue motorists who drive off without paying for petrol.

The Committee, which is investigating changes to police funding in England and Wales, also heard from the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Craig Mackey QPM.

The Met had 'started to pick up where other agencies have withdrawn their services', he told the Committee, dramatically increasing its workload relating to non-crime matters. This included routine checks on individuals for whom there were welfare concerns, and 'thousands of calls a year' to check on 'people who have walked out of hospital with a catheter in'.

In September our Director, Richard Garside, highlighted the problem of police mission creep such as this. He argued that cuts to police budgets were an opportunity to rebalance public policy.

Youth and social workers, professionals in health and education, local authorities and civil society organisations should be providing the default response to a range of social problems currently dealt with by the police, he wrote, leaving a smaller police service to focus on a narrower range of core functions.