Former Home Office minister Norman Baker airs outspoken views on crime rates, drugs and tackling online child abuse in an interview with PoliceOracle.com.
The Liberal Democrat, who quit his role in government amid a clash with the Home Secretary, said that since crime appeared to be falling across the world governments could not claim overall credit.
He revealed he takes a dim view of politicians who claim their interventions had prompted crime rates to fall, saying: “I thought it was a bit stupid when people did say that, whether in this government or the previous government.
“You can take steps, but for the government to say we have brought all crime down is probably over-egging it.”
Crime was falling everywhere, he said “and no one has got to the bottom of why”.
“I’m not saying governments aren’t without influence,” he added, “but I’m saying there is a societal trend which is occurring anyway.”
After resigning as a minister last year, Mr Baker complained that Home Secretary Theresa May had removed some recommendations from a report around drugs policy ahead of its publication.
A draft copy of the report, produced by civil servants, apparently proposed piloting an approach similar to the one adopted in Portugal, where drug use has been decriminalised.
Mr Baker later described working under the Home Secretary as “like walking through mud”.
He told PoliceOracle.com Mrs May’s “reluctance to delegate” was “tiresome” – but he added that she was “intelligent, committed and more liberal than she is sometimes given credit for”.
Mr Baker said the Portuguese approach to drugs helped addicts by treating them as patients and allowing police to focus on the “Mr Bigs”.
He said: “The implication of the hardline lobby is that the bigger the sentence, the less drug use there will be, which is absolutely untrue. There’s no evidence for that, and that’s what the civil service report said.”
The advocate of “evidence based policy” also praised Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who was recently quoted by a national newspaper as saying that thousands of men who view child abuse images online should be treated by the NHS rather than sent to prison.
Mr Baker said: “Like drug users, treat them. He [CC Bailey] has told me that if we went after every person who is downloading child abuse images, the police would do nothing else.”
He called for more research to find out to whether downloading child abuse images was a “gateway” to physically abusing children.
He added that he would be interested to know “to what extent men downloading child images stops them assaulting children because they have a release, and to what extent it encourages them to go to the next stage.
“You have to research it.
“If it turned out that the vast majority of men that were downloading images didn’t then go on to abuse children in person – ok, they’re being abused where they are being filmed, in the Philippines or wherever – that would suggest to me that a bit more police time should be spent on going after those that do abuse children and a bit less time should be spent on those that download.
“If, on the other hand, it is a gateway thing, then clearly it needs to be nipped in the bud before it gets to children.”
From Police Oracle