Daily Mail: Emergency? We'll be along in 3 hours

Thursday, 17 July, 2008

GUIDELINES ordering police to respond to emergency calls within three hours and to attend less urgent incidents such as burglaries within three days have been drawn up by the Home Office.

The astonishing proposals were designed as 'national standards for local policing' in England and Wales.

They laid down a three-hour target for officers to reach an incident which 'requires policing intervention'.

And they allowed police to wait a leisurely three days where 'there is less immediate need' for their presence.

The leaked draft targets were to be included in the Government's long-awaited Green Paper on police reform.

But after a barrage of criticism from the Opposition yesterday - which accused the

Home Affairs Correspondent Government of being out of touch with the public - Home Office officials insisted the targets will not appear in the final version of the paper when it is published tomorrow.

The apparent disarray follows Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's startling U-turn over proposals to force knife-crime offenders to confront victims in hospitals. That plan was floated and ditched within 24 hours.

The proposals for response times - part of a 'Police Pledge' to the public - appear to be so modest that they would be of little value as performance targets.

At present, each police force sets its own response target times.

The Metropolitan Police aims to attend 90 per cent of emergency calls within 12 minutesand 90 per cent of nonurgent incidents within one hour, for example.

The suggestion that householders who have suffered a burglary should wait up to three days for a visit raises serious questions about the fate of any forensic evidence left at the scene.

Other proposals in the leaked draft include familiar pledges to provide local residents with details of their neighbourhood policing team and how to contact them, as well as locally agreed policing priorities, and a commitment that neighbourhood teams will spend 80 per cent of their time out on the beat.

Conservatives dismissed the proposals as a combination of re-heated old announcements and unrealistic promises.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: 'This is an exhausted Government on its last legs that has neither the vision nor the resolve to design and deliver the reform our police needs.'

Tory police spokesman David Ruffley added: 'Jacqui Smith's policy pledge is a rehash of old Home Office announcements.

'The British public will not think that replying to phone calls and attending incidents in a timely manner is the big new vision for law and order that Britain is crying out for.'

A major review of policing earlier this year by watchdog Sir Ronnie Flanagan warned that police were becoming increasingly 'risk-averse', and that 'excess bureaucracy' was encouraging them to ' overrecord and under-deliver'.