June 27, 2022

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Police regulator Tom Winsor: ‘I’ll arbitrate pretty much anything’

2 min read

Fifty years ago the incoming head of the Metropolitan police, Robert Mark, defined a good police force as “one that catches more crooks than it employs”. The test is simple enough, but many Londoners are again wondering if the Met passes it.

A serving officer killed Sarah Everard last year. Other policemen shared photos of murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman. Still others exchanged racist jokes. Last month it emerged that officers had strip-searched a black 15-year-old girl on her period without an appropriate adult present, because they suspected (wrongly) that she was carrying cannabis. Racism was likely “an influencing factor”, a review found. The latest head of the Met, the defensive Cressida Dick, had already resigned after losing the confidence of London’s mayor Sadiq Khan — the fourth successive commissioner to be pushed from office.

What on earth has gone so wrong? If anyone should be able to get to the bottom of it, it’s Sir Tom Winsor. The flinty Scottish lawyer guards the guards, or at least inspects the inspectors. As the chief inspector of constabulary until his retirement at the end of March, he spent 10 years scrutinising the police of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Met, by far the largest force, was at the heart of the job.

Amid the charlatans in British public life, Winsor has a reputation for hanging tough for a principle. In an earlier role as Britain’s rail regulator, he used his legal powers to give the country’s railways an extra £7.4bn: when the Treasury fumed, he waved two fingers. He was the first outsider to become chief inspector, and has spoken his mind, calling the police’s record-keeping “inexcusable”, the criminal justice system “dysfunctional and defective”, and tech bosses “complicit” in horrific internet abuse.


So I wait in a French bistro near Farringdon, ready to meet someone quite unlike the average diffident Brit. The man who walks in turns out to be extraordinary, but…



2022-04-08 07:30:28

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