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Saturday, 9 March, 2002, 09:27 GMT
Public 'back police' in justice row
The public want crime cut and criminals jailed
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens has said he has unprecedented public support for his broadside on the criminal justice system.

Sir John launched a withering attack on the courts and the legal profession last week.

"For the last two days here at Scotland Yard we have been inundated in a way that's never happened before with public support in terms of what I've been saying," he said.

There will be more stop-and-search and we will be making sure it is targeted

Sir John Stevens
In an interview for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Sir John said the police service was entitled to be heard.

"We are in the middle of the criminal justice system. There needs to be a change and most people accept that."

He said he was continuing a debate which began four years ago, but had yet to produce results.

Sir John conceded that some criticisms of the police were well founded - detection rates had to improve, for example, he said.

Focused searches

He also announced an increase in the use of stop-and-search powers, in line with a recent call from Mike Best, the editor of Britain's leading black newspaper, the Voice.

"Mike Best was making the point that stop and search should be used by the police in a targeted and focused way.

Sir John Stevens at Leicester University
Sir John has responded to rising street crime
"It is tremendous that these leaders of the black community are coming out.

"There will be more stop-and-search and we will be making sure it is targeted and used in the right way."

Sir John sparked anger from lawyers in his speech earlier this week, in which he said the courts were contributing to a rise in violent crime and robberies by allowing guilty people to walk free.

He told the Today programme that the system must be changed to help victims and witnesses who were currently so disenchanted by the system they were refusing to help police again.

System 'shielding criminals'

Sir John conceded said after the Police Federation rejected reforms of the service it was necessary to split changes to pay and conditions and more general reforms.

He said the criminal justice system was "appalling", with defence lawyers, court administrators and judges shielding criminals and treating witnesses and victims with contempt.

His comments were described as "extreme" by senior lawyers, with the chairman of the Bar Council, David Bean QC, warning against Britain sliding into a "police state".

But Home Office Minister John Denham told the Commons on Friday that "end-to-end reform" of the criminal justice system was needed.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens
"There needs to be a change"
The BBC's Mike Thomson
"Witnesses find themselves the victims of incompetence"

Rough justice
Does the legal system fail the victims of crime?
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