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  1. ITV Report

Amber Rudd unveils new crime strategy as Jeremy Corbyn attacks Tories on police numbers

Home Secretary Amber Rudd vowed to do "whatever it takes" to make Britain's streets safe as she unveiled plans to combat a worrying rise in stabbings, shootings and acid attacks.

The Serious Violence Strategy she announced on Monday is underpinned by £40 million of Home Office funding and led by a new Offensive Weapons Bill that aims to make it particularly harder for young criminals to arm themselves.

However, after a wave of violent gun and knife crime in London, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn united with London Mayor Sadiq Khan accused the Tories of "reckless failure" by cutting police numbers and slashing funds for local services.

Mr Corbyn described attending the funerals of knife and gun crime victims, saying the experience was "deeply moving and poignant".

And a leaked Home Office document prepared ahead of the new strategy launch said cuts to police numbers have "likely contributed" to a rise in serious violent crime.

People pay tribute to a victim of knife crime in Hackney. Credit: PA

The document, obtained by the Guardian, risks embarrassing ministers including Amber Rudd, who have insisted that a decline in the number of officers could not be linked to a rise in violent crime.

The paper, entitled Serious Violence; Latest Evidence On The Drivers, said it was "unlikely to be the factor that triggered the shift in serious violence, but may be an underlying driver that has allowed the rise to continue".

A highlighted box summarises the point: "Not the main driver but has likely contributed."

When asked by ITV News National Editor Allegra Stratton about the leaked document, Ms Rudd said: "I'm not interested in making policy decisions about anecdote, I'm interested in making them based on evidence."

  • What is new about the government's strategy to fight violent crime?

Government officials insist the new strategy marks a "major shift" by striking a balance between prevention and law enforcement.

Plans for the crackdown were first announced last year before details to tackle guns, knives and acid crimes with a new Offensive Weapons Bill emerged at the weekend.

Ms Rudd highlighted the importance of stopping youngsters carrying knives, while identifying changes in the drugs market as a "key driver" on the violence affecting communities.

In a speech in London, Ms Rudd said: "This strategy represents a real step-change in the way we think about and respond to these personal tragedies, these gruesome violent crimes which dominate the front pages of our newspapers with seemingly depressing regularity.

"A crucial part of our approach will be focusing on and investing more in prevention and early intervention."

A leaked document says police cuts Credit: PA

The strategy also sets out how drug-market violence may be aided by social media as online platforms are used to glamourise gang life and stoke up rivalries.

The home secretary rejected suggestions there were not enough officers on the streets.

Ms Rudd said: "The head of the Metropolitan Police has said she does not believe the recent spike in attacks is due to cuts in police budgets."

Ms Rudd also rejected claims that cuts in youth services were a factor as "too simplistic".

"In my view simplistic arguments are no substitute for a serious strategy," she said.

Amber Rudd, pictured last year, being shown weapons seized by police. Credit: PA

The strategy will:

  • Call on social media companies to do more to rid the web of violent gang content
  • Set out tough restrictions on online sales of knives following concerns that age verification checks can be sidestepped
  • Make it a criminal offence to possess corrosive substances in a public place
  • Reveal plans to consult on extending stop and search powers so police can use the tactics to seize acid from suspects carrying it without good reason
  • Make it illegal to possess certain weapons, including zombie knives and knuckle-dusters, in private
Amber Rudd said that police cannot 'arrest their way out of the problem'.

She added: "While I do not think we can arrest our way out of the problem, I do believe police have a vital role to play in tackling it."

Ms Rudd described it as "worrying" that police officers were "losing confidence" in stop and search powers.

"Let me make my position absolutely clear," she said. "I stand fully behind stop and search and I see it as a vital tool for the police."

She said that a combination of stop and search, hot spot policing and a better use of data will help police to respond to violent crime.

The strategy also covered moves to tackle drug dealing and the ease of purchasing weapons.

  • What is Labour's argument on the link between police numbers and crime?

Mr Corbyn highlighted the loss of 21,000 police officers across the UK since 2010 as he and Mr Khan launch Labour's local election campaign in London.

The party leader took aim at the Conservatives record on policing and crime, saying: "We have got to do better. We have got to end knife and gun crime in London.

"You simply cannot maintain community cohesion when you slash funding to the police service and cut the number of officers on our streets by 21,000.

"You cannot protect local communities when you cut funding to local councils to such an extent they are unable to provide the essential youth service support that stops many young people from being drawn into violent crime.

Mr Corbyn added: "Young people with their lives ahead of them are being ripped from our communities. Too many families are facing the loss of a child they have nurtured in their early years - never to see the potential of that love and support realised.

"As political leaders we must act. We have to tackle full on the reasons so many of our young people are having their lives extinguished."

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott. Credit: PA

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott cited police numbers as she criticised the funding for the new crime strategy.

Ms Abbott said the government "has only just woken up to the problem of rising violent crime" and added: "Acknowledging the need to tackle causes as well as effects of violent crimes is welcome but the money committed is very small scale.

"I am appealing to the Home Secretary to commit to no further decline in police numbers for as long as this Government is in office."