Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the IPEC Community Police Officer of the Year Awards, held on 13th October 1993.
Thank you for your warm welcome. I am extremely delighted to be here for three reasons. First because it gives me an opportunity to offer my sincere congratulations to Sergeant Alan Evans on becoming Community Police Officer of the Year. Remarkable achievement. Second, an opportunity to congratulate the other 35 officers who were nominated for this prestigious award. The number of nominations indicates the high quality of policing we often take for granted. 36 nominated – but many more could have been.
Being here also allows me to pay my personal tribute to the very many police officers – and their civilian colleagues – up and down the country, who do so much each day to serve our communities.
Last week I pledged there would be no compromise and no excuse for crime. I said it was time to sweep away the fog of fashionable theories and get back to basics. Time for everyone in Britain to stand up and say what the whole police force has always known. Crime can never be justified.
Michael Howard’s announcements on crime last week were warmly welcomed by Police bodies. That is good news. The police are at the forefront in the battle against crime, and they know the measures needed to tackle it.
Others have taken a different view and question the role prison has to play in our criminal justice system. I welcome a debate but only in as much as it leads to constructive measures to combat crime.
No-one denies that prison is expensive and criminals coming out of prison often offend again. But those who make such points must not miss two simple facts.
– First, while criminals are in prison they cannot commit crimes;
– And second, the existence of prison, as a sanction against criminals, deters many others from committing crimes.
In short, prison does work.
We must continue to do what we can to ensure that criminals are rehabilitated while they are in custody. And we must continue to do what we can to ensure that there are humane conditions in our prisons.
As the Home Secretary has said, conditions should be decent, but austere.
We have introduced programmes to make criminals confront their behaviour. And we have succeeded in cutting overcrowding by one half.
Above all the first duty of any Government, above anything else, is to protect the public. That means the courts must be able to imprison those criminals who pose a threat to their communities.
The public, quite rightly, demand that protection. And the Government, quite rightly, is determined to provide it. I reject outright any proposal that would penalise the victims of crime rather than the criminal. We need to consider victims more, not less.
Tonight, I am glad to pay personal tribute to those tens of thousands of police officers who do so much for communities up and down the country each day. Good policing and safe communities need a partnership. And all sections of the community must take their share of responsibility, alongside the police, for stopping crime.
I know that across the police service there is a clear recognition of the need to work closely with the broader community.
But good policing also needs the full backing of Government. The police have that wholehearted commitment. That is why last week we announced new powers, a reduction in red tape, new measures to make investigation easier, and new sentences for a wide range of crime.
I make this promise – Michael Howard’s measures are the start, not the end, of a renewed drive on crime.
In finishing, let me pay tribute to Victor Green and to IPEC for their initiative in establishing these awards and to thank them for their continuing support of them.
And let me once again offer my congratulations to the contribution made by the police officers around the country to the communities they serve. On behalf of the people of Britain, thank you.