The home secretary has attacked the mayor of Greater Manchester as the area’s chief constable stepped down after the force was placed in special measures.
Ian Hopkins said he was bringing forward his retirement in the wake of a damning report by inspectors that found the force had failed to record 80,000 crimes, a fifth of all offences, in the year to 30 June.
The announcement was welcomed by Priti Patel. However, the home secretary’s spokesman then attacked the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, saying that he had “thrown a senior police officer under the bus to save his own skin”.
Patel’s spokesman added: “This will not distract from [Burnham’s] years of failure, and most disturbingly his unwillingness and inability to deliver justice for victims and survivors of the most abhorrent crimes.”
Burnham, who oversees the force, had earlier said it was a “difficult day” for the region but it was right for Hopkins to stand down. He criticised an “overly defensive culture” within GMP and said its performance on crime recording was “unacceptable”.
Announcing his retirement, Hopkins said: “These are challenging times for Greater Manchester police. The force has a long-term strategic plan to address the issues raised by the HMIC and I believe this plan should be led by a chief constable who can oversee it from start to finish.
“Considering what is best for GMP and the communities we serve, and given my current ill-health, I have decided to stand down from the post of chief constable with immediate effect.”
Hopkins, who was due to retire next autumn, has led GMP for five years, having been a police officer for 32 years. His deputy, Ian Pilling, will replace Hopkins at least on an interim basis.
Hopkins announced last week that he had been signed off sick, days after the scathing report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.
He said he had been suffering from labyrinthitis, an inner ear infection that affects balance, since the end of October.
Burnham said the HMIC report had revealed an “unacceptable lack of progress” within GMP to tackle long-term failures in its crime-recording process.
He paid tribute to Hopkins for leading the force through “one of the most difficult periods in its history”, including the Manchester Arena attack and the prosecution of the bomber’s brother, while contending with a £200m budget reduction and a loss of 2,000 officers since 2010.
“In other important areas, however, the organisation has not made the progress needed,” Burnham said, adding that his role in holding the force to account had “been made too difficult by an overly defensive culture within Greater Manchester police”.
He added: “This needs to change if Greater Manchester police is to develop the open learning culture that will allow the failures identified by HMIC to be properly addressed. Improvements are now overdue.
“Both I and the deputy mayor, while paying tribute today to Ian’s 12 years of service to Greater Manchester police, have concluded that now is the time for new leadership and a new era in our police force.”
The HMIC report found that GMP, the second biggest force in England, failed to record an estimated 80,100 crimes reported to it between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020, amounting to one in five of all reported crimes, or about 220 crimes a day.
Inspectors said the force was too often letting down victims of crime, particularly those who were most vulnerable. Seven in 10 domestic abuse cases were closed without a full investigation and without a proper record of whether the victim supported this decision, the report found.
One in four violent crimes were also not properly recorded by GMP, inspectors said. Vera Baird, the victims commissioner for England and Wales, said the force’s record was “outstandingly bad”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “It’s completely dreadful. That type of crime – stalking, coercive control, is profoundly traumatising. People need not only the support of police to get orders restraining the perpetrator, taking them to court, but to be safeguarded, to be referred to appropriate victim services, to be moved on from there to higher-level, counselling-type support. None of that was happening.”
Beverley Hughes, the deputy mayor of Greater Manchester, said a new central crime recording unit had been established and would eventually handle all incidents reported to the force. Burnham’s office is launching a new telephone hotline – 0808 196 8416 – for people who feel they have not been treated properly by GMP.