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Police called 'barely literate' by lawyers

Police vans
Image caption Theresa May said changes may be made to police recruitment

The man leading a review into police recruitment has spoken of claims that some officers present evidence in court cases that is "barely literate".

Tom Winsor told the Police Superintendents Conference that some lawyers spoke in "contemptuous terms" of the quality of police evidence.

He also suggested police entry tests were lower than they were 60 years ago.

He said he had seen questions from 1930 and 1946 that were "very, very, very significantly harder" than today.

The Home Office said it had no comment to make on Mr Winsor's remarks.

Mr Winsor has been commissioned by the home secretary to review police pay and conditions in England and Wales.

The former rail regulator told the conference, in Warwickshire, that it had been suggested to him - both by a former commissioner of the Met and by a serving national officer of the Police Federation - that standards were lowered to attract more black and minority ethnic recruits.

He said he found it "astonishing" to hear such a claim being made and added: "Is it true, this assumption? It can't be so."

The second part of his review on police pay will be published in January, and cover how officers enter the police service; how pay progression up the pay scales could be made fairer to officers, staff and the taxpayer; and how officer and staff pay and conditions of service are decided.

Home Secretary Theresa May, in her own speech to the conference later, said senior levels of policing lack "diversity of backgrounds and experience" .

'Leaders of the future'

She said the government was considering widening the pool of talent from which police leaders were drawn.

"It is clear that there is much that the police can learn from senior people outside policing, just as every other organisation can learn from an external perspective," she said.

"No one who genuinely wants to improve policing can truly believe that all of the answers have to come from inside.

"But we should also recognise the simple fact that the current police leadership model has not delivered a diversity of backgrounds and experience at the most senior levels of the service."

Mrs May told the superintendents: "Yes, direct entry means there will be more competition for senior policing posts. But that is clearly not a good reason to oppose it."

Earlier, Derek Barnett, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, opposed introducing direct entry into forces by an "officer class" at inspector level.

"I am at a loss to understand why anyone would wish to become a police officer to serve the public and yet see it as acceptable to skip the basic and most important roles of constable and sergeant where the basic skills and experience of real policing is learnt and credibility earned," he said.

'No officer class'

"Policing is a meritocracy where advancement is not based on background, influence or favour, but simply on merit.

"So, there should be no direct entry into an officer class as there is in the military, but advancement should be based on skills, experience and potential."

Mrs May also insisted that the police were not being expected to make 20% budget cuts.

"It's true, of course, that the police grant from central government will be cut by 20%, but that's not the actual cut in budgets that police forces will need to make.

"That's because, as you all know, police forces get their money from two sources of funding - central government and the local council tax precept.

"In cost terms... we're talking about a 6% reduction in total police funding over four years. That's not a political or financial conjuring trick. It's the reality."

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