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U.K. leader pledges more prison spaces, 'stop-and-search' police powers

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is promising more prisons and stronger police powers in an effort to fight violent crime.

Conservative PM Boris Johnson writes column about crime clampdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given support to 'stop-and-search' powers for police and has also pledged to create another 10,000 spaces in U.K. prisons. (Frank Augstein/file photo/The Associated Press)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is promising more prisons and stronger police powers in an effort to fight violent crime.

The government announced plans Sunday to create 10,000 more prison places to ease overcrowding and said it would allow police to stop and search people without reasonable suspicion "if serious violence is anticipated."

"I am announcing today that in all 43 police authorities in England and Wales, we are making clear that the police can 
and should make use of their stop-and-search powers," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday, adding that such a step was needed to combat crime.

Such powers are contentious because young ethnic-minority men are disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched.

Opposition Labour Party law-and-order spokeswoman Diane Abbott said it was "a tried-and-tested recipe for unrest, not violence reduction."

Violent crime on the rise

Official statistics show that violent crime has begun to rise after declining for two decades.

Johnson also wrote that Finance Minister Sajid Javid has agreed to spend up to £2.5 billion ($4 billion Cdn) to 
create the additional spaces in prisons.

The prime minister insisted on tougher sentencing laws for "serious sexual and violent offenders," as well as for those carrying knives, which would mean more pressure on jails and the need for their expansion.

The crime clampdown is the latest in a series of policy promises that Johnson, a Conservative, has made since taking office last month, sparking speculation that an early election is looming.

With files from Reuters