“I want offenders to feel terror” – new Home Secretary declares

Priti Patel has said she wants criminals to “feel terror” at the thought of offending, as she distanced herself from her comments in support of the death penalty.

In her first interview as Home Secretary, she pledged to get a grip on violent crime after Boris Johnson committed to recruiting 20,000 more police officers.

“I’ve always felt the Conservative Party is the party of the police and police officers,” she told the Daily Mail.

“Quite frankly, with more police officers out there and greater police presence, I want (criminals) to literally feel terror at the thought of committing offences.”

Ms Patel previously said in 2006 she was in favour of the “ultimate punishment” for the worst of crimes, and supported the death penalty during a Question Time debate on the subject in 2011.

Asked about the death penalty, she told the Mail: “I have never said I’m an active supporter of it and (what I said) is constantly taken out of context.”

Her comments on the BBC show were: “I do actually think when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in this country and where we have seen murderers, rapists and people who have committed the most abhorrent crimes in society, go into prison and then are released from prison to go out into the community to then re-offend and do the types of crime they have committed again and again.

“I think that’s appalling. And actually on that basis alone I would actually support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent.”

Ms Patel was one of the greatest beneficiaries of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle after he became Prime Minister.

She was elevated from the backbenches having been sacked as Secretary of State for International Development by Theresa May in 2017 for holding secret meetings with members of the Israeli government.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook, the definitive 1,600-page annual guide to the prison system of England and Wales, writes:

First of all offenders are the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, not the Home Secretary; this isn’t her brief.

Secondly the very reason why so many young people carry knives and guns is precisely because they already feel terror – terror at the thought that if they do not have one their life is on the line – and the staggering number of deaths on our streets proves they are right.

Thirdly, she needs to understand that policing is not simply a numerical issue – you can have 200,000 extra police on the streets and still not make a difference – indeed if you deploy them in a way that does not have the consent of the communities they police, then the danger is you will make things worse not better.

Finally, it is clear that Ms Patel has little understanding of the real issues surrounding crime. Offenders are far more terrified of gangs on the streets who can kill them, than they ever are of the police who, at worst, can only arrest them; it is deeply concerning that, as Home Secretary, she obviously just doesn’t get it.