Sir Keir Starmer has said it is “ridiculous” to call the Conservatives “the party of law and order” amid rising crime and falling conviction rates.
The Labour leader said his party would put enforcing criminal justice at the centre of its local election campaign and make sure that “people feel safe in their own environment”.
He said the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was a “huge missed opportunity” to “do something profound” about violence against women and girls.
Speaking during a visit to Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sir Keir said the Tories’ accusation that Labour was “on the side of criminals” by opposing the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was “complete rubbish”.
He said: “This comes from a Government that has cut our number of police officers, cut our number of support staff, where crime has gone up, the conviction rate has gone down, it’s just ridiculous to call the Conservative Party the party of law and order.
“When your crime rates are going up and your conviction rates are going down, you have no right to start lecturing other people about criminal justice.”
The leader of the Labour Party, who was director of public prosecutions for five years, said: “What I think people want it to feel safe, in their home, in their environment, in their community.
“And when people say to me, as they do, ‘I don’t feel comfortable going out after dark, even in my own area’, then there’s something fundamentally wrong.”
He added: “I was responsible, with the police and prosecutors, for enforcing criminal justice, I know what a difference it makes to our communities, so we, the Labour Party, are saying we’ve got to take this much more seriously.
“Labour are putting it central to our election going into May.
“We want, not just more police officers on the street, we want neighbourhood officers, we want back-up civilian staff so officers can be on the frontline more of the time, but we also need a law to protect and give better support to victims.
“Violence against women and girls has been much discussed in recent weeks, it’s deeply frustrating because, for a decade of Conservative government, we’ve been promised a victims’ law, we’ve been promised action on violence against women and girls and we’ve had neither of them and we need comprehensive legislation to put in place better support, we need to make sure we take criminal justice and enforcement of criminal justice much more seriously.”
Sir Keir continued: “A vote for Labour is a vote for law and order and making sure that people feel safe in their own environment.”
The Labour leader said the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill “was a huge missed opportunity” to do something about violence against women and girls in the wake of Sarah Everard’s death.
He said: “Many, many women and girls have said ‘we don’t feel safe out in the city centres, in the town centres, on the streets, after dark’.
“There is a level of abuse and harassment that hasn’t been dealt with.
“This bill was the chance to do something really profound about that and what did the Government do?
“Put a bill before Parliament that said more about protecting statues than it did about protecting women and girls.
“That’s a Government that’s lost sight of the priorities that really matter and that’s why we voted against it.”
The party leader was speaking as Labour launched a new campaign poster in Southampton, highlighting a surge in violent crime and a drop in the number of suspects being charged.
The campaign, launched by shadow home secretary Nick Thomas Symonds, urged the Government to make policing a priority ahead of local elections.