Tens of thousands of suspected criminals will be charged by a letter through the post under Government plans to cut police bureaucracy, Home Secretary Theresa May has said.
Mrs May, who vowed to free up 2.5 million hours of police time, said officers must get out from behind their desks and back on to the streets, with the "discretion to do what they think is right, free from the interference of Whitehall, free to do their job, free to fight crime".
The move, which will target minor offences including theft and criminal damage, will see bailed suspects sent formal charges through the post instead of being asked to attend police stations, freeing up officers' time.
Police officers will also be given greater discretion over charging decisions and over how they prioritise calls, while the level of detail they need to collect on minor offences will be reduced.
Mrs May said: "For appropriate police bail cases, this will allow officers to send a written charge by post, requiring the defendant to attend court on a specific date to answer the charge, rather than calling the suspect back to the police station for charging."
And burdens, targets and guidance which are scrapped nationally should not be replaced by local versions in each of the 43 forces, she said. Under the moves, frontline officers will also be encouraged to deal with most complaints quickly and informally themselves.
Mrs May added that the reforms, which she described as "a watershed moment in policing", were a "massive transfer of power from the Government to the people".
She also blamed forces for a "great deal" of the bureaucracy faced by officers each day and said senior officers must take the lead in cutting red tape.
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the move was "more sleight of hand than reform of service".
"The Home Secretary claims her reforms will save the equivalent of 1,200 police officers, yet she is cutting 10 times that number of officers in the next two years," she said. "Many of the police officers that are left are having to do more bureaucracy, not less, because thousands of support staff have been cut too fast."