Police heckle Theresa May's reforms speech

Theresa May was forced to deliver her speech next to a sign that read 'Cutting Police 20% Is Criminal.' Photo: ITN

The Home Secretary was heckled today as she told rank-and-file officers that changes to their pay and conditions were reforms which hard-working police officers should welcome.

Officers jeered as Theresa May told them regular fitness tests, new entry requirements to ensure the most talented recruits were hired, and direct entry for experienced individuals into senior ranks should all be welcome changes.

But she added that giving officers the right to strike was "off the table", saying:

"Keeping our communities safe is simply too important."

May also insisted it was not true that the Government was singling out policing, adding that while the 20% budget cuts were challenging, they must be seen through "for the good of our country".

Let's stop pretending the police are being picked on. Every part of the public sector is having to take its share of the pain."

Mrs May told the Police Federation's annual conference in Bournemouth that officers' concerns over the Government's policing reforms broadly came down to money, their pensions, pay and budgets.

She was greeted by officers standing and holding banners saying "Cutting police by 20% is criminal" as she walked on stage and showed no emotion as she was told: "Enough is enough."**

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Sejal Karie reports from Bournemouth.

When she told officers: "It is because the police are crime-fighters that we will never privatise policing."

One officer shouted: "You already are."

But May insisted:

It will only ever be police officers who make arrests; it will only ever be police officers who lead investigations; and it will only ever be police officers who direct policing operations."

In her speech, Mrs May announced she would extend police powers to enable officers to prosecute traffic offences where the defendant does not enter a plea or turn up at court.

Together, these changes should allow the police to prosecute "up to half a million cases every year" or around half of cases currently heard in magistrates courts.

Police will also be given further powers "to prosecute a wider range of low-level offences", with the details announced later this summer.