Police are reportedly being advised to arrest fewer people in a bid to ease overcrowding in prisons.

Chief constables are being told to consider pausing “non-priority arrests” until there is capacity in jails across England and Wales, according to The Times.

Any planned operations where large numbers of arrests may take place should potentially be paused to ease pressures in the criminal justice system, according to an internal document from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) seen by the newspaper.

Hampshire Chronicle: Chief Constable Scott Chilton, Hampshire ConstabularyChief Constable Scott Chilton, Hampshire Constabulary (Image: Maya George, Newsquest)

Responding to these reports, Hampshire Constabulary's Chief Constable, Scott Chilton, pledged that “relentlessly pursuing criminals and giving victims the service they expect from policing remain our core priorities”.

The force boss has said it continues to be proactive in arresting criminals, targeting prolific offenderd and those wanted on warrants.

He added: “We are arresting more people and bringing them into our custody centres, and this remains our approach.

“We are aware of the pressures being faced by our partners within the wider criminal justice system, and working with them to ensure that people can continue to be brought before the courts in a timely manner.

“We will provide the support required, but we must keep the public safe.”

Commenting on Mr Chilton’s position, Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones said: “I fully support the Chief’s decision that arrests will continue in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight.

“The job of the police is to keep the public safe – it is what we pay them to do. Police will continue to arrest suspects as usual so that those who commit crimes and cause harm to others are taken off the streets.

 “The Chief and I agree continuing to make arrests in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight is the right thing to do. Keeping the public safe will remain the police’s core responsibility despite pressures from the wider criminal justice system.

“The overcrowding in prisons is not an issue for policing, it is for the Ministry of Justice to manage.”

The paper said the memo also warned of the risk of suspects suing police forces for unlawful detention due to the knock-on effects of the Ministry of Justice’s so-called Operation Early Dawn.

The measure allows defendants to be held in police cells – and not be transferred to magistrates’ courts for bail hearings – until prison beds become available.