Don’t let shoplifters off if they steal food in desperation, minister tells police

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Home Office minister Kit Malthouse said the “law should be blind”, adding: “I have to challenge this connection between poverty and crime.” He spoke out after new chief inspector of constabulary Andy Cooke told officers to “use their discretion more often” when they meet hard-up shoplifters.

But policing minister Mr Malthouse accused Mr Cooke of “old-fashioned thinking”.

He said: “There is growing evidence that crime is a contributor to poverty. If you remove violence and crime from people’s lives, they generally prosper more. Officers should operate without fear or favour.

“It’s not quite right to say that as the economy fluctuates, so does crime. We’ve seen economic problems in the past when crime has risen, or not.”

But he added: “Whenever you see an increase in the cost of living or you see more people dropping into poverty, I think you’ll invariably see a rise in crime.”

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