There is “no such thing as a thought crime”, the outgoing chief inspector of constabulary said as he told police bosses they “enforce the law, they do not make it”.
Sir Tom Winsor vented his frustrations as he set out his final annual assessment of the state of policing in England and Wales, saying chief constables cannot “declare something that is not a crime to be a crime” in their force area, adding: “It is not illegal to think anything.”
His comments follow reports that some police forces now treat misogyny and transphobia as hate crimes amid public concern about such behaviour.
Ex-Nottinghamshire police boss Sue Fish was reportedly the first chief constable to record misogyny as a hate crime in 2016.
Sir Tom told reporters: “From time to time, one turns on the radio and there’s retired chief constables declaring certain things to be crimes which are not crimes.
The police enforce the law, they do not make itSir Tom Winsor
“I think it’s necessary for me as chief inspector of constabulary to make it perfectly clear that is no part of our legal system …
“So for a former chief constable or for any police officer to say ‘in my police area, such and such being a thought is a crime’ is completely unsustainable.”
His report said “there is no such thing as a thought crime”, adding: “It is not appropriate for senior police officers, serving or retired, to assert a right of the police to declare anything criminal, least of all what people may think.
“They have no legal power to create criminal offences in their police areas or anywhere else. It is important that no-one is misled: the police enforce the law, they do not make it.”
But he stressed hate can be an aggravating factor in criminal offences that are carried out and that should be reflected when sentencing criminals.