'Huge' investment needed if policing devolved to Wales

A police officer overlooking Cardiff Image copyright Getty Images

Tackling serious crime would need a "huge" investment in resources if policing was devolved, a police and crime commissioner has said.

Gwent Police's Ian Johnston said Welsh forces would have to go cap in hand to England for expertise like the National Crime Agency (NCA), or pay for it.

The UK government is responsible for all forces in Wales and England.

The Welsh government said it had made "no secret" of its desire to see responsibility for policing devolved.

On Tuesday, Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, said policing in Wales needs special attention.

"Policing has changed - it was not as it was 20 years ago. And, therefore, the police must say what they're doing now and the government must say what they want to fund," he said.

The Silk Commission recommended in March 2014 that control over youth justice and policing should be devolved to Wales.

Mr Johnston said: "There is a real danger that we'll have local policing in Wales, which is good, but if we need anything at a higher level whether it be the National Crime Agency, some parts of the criminal justice system that we'll have to look to England and we'll be isolated and we could actually become the poor relatives."

The level of investment to buy in resources like the NCA would be "huge", he added.

Image caption Ian Johnston said Wales could suffer if policing was devolved

Christopher Salmon, Mr Johnston's counterpart for Dyfed-Powys Police, said: "There is nothing the assembly can do to add, except bureaucracy and cost."

The south Wales police and crime commissioner (PCC) Alun Michael previously said he wanted policing devolved to Wales.

PCC for North Wales Police, Winston Roddick, has been asked to comment.

The Welsh government said: "Policing is the only emergency service not devolved; remedying this would enable stronger joint working with the other emergency services.

"We have previously said that we feel the devolution of the other elements of the criminal justice system should be a plan for the longer term. This has not changed."

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The Scottish government, which has power over policing and justice, has just invested £73m in the Scottish Crime Campus, which brings together agencies to fight crime and terrorism, as well as the Scottish Serious Organised Crime Task Force.

Former officer Colin Rogers, a professor of policing at the University of South Wales, believes the Welsh government would not have to invest on that scale, but would need Wales-specific bodies.

"You would need to see a policing minister, a deputy policing minister and possibly then the administrative function that goes along with that to support policing in Wales," he said.

A UK government spokesman said: "There was no consensus amongst parties to accept the Silk Commission recommendations on devolution of policing to Wales, and we will not be taking that forward.

"Everyone in Wales has a direct say in policing in their area, through their locally elected and accountable police and crime commissioner."

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