Theresa May
Home Secretary Theresa May arrives at the National Black Police Association (NBPA) Conference escorted by NBPA chair Franstine JonesGetty

The Met Police has hit back at Theresa May after the Home Secretary claimed Scotland Yard was guilty of making "knee-jerk" reactions on links between knife crime and curbs on stop-and-search powers.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe - commissioner of the Met Police, the country's largest police force - suggested earlier this year that a reduction in stop and search may have reduced the deterrent to carrying knives.

But May, who backs reforms that have seen a fall in stop and searches, dismissed suggestions that knife crime is on the rise because officers are no longer stopping and searching those in possession of knives and called for more work on prevention and an end to "knee-jerk reaction on the back of a false link".

Now the Metropolitan Police has fired back saying the Home Office "misunderstood" it. In a strongly worded statement the Met made clear: "There has been no knee-jerk reaction nor will there be. Our clear intention is to continue with the targeted use of stop and search, and the Home Office appears to have misunderstood our response to recent rises in knife crime and our future intentions. There has been no knee-jerk reaction nor will there be.

"The Commissioner has driven this change personally since 2012, encouraging officers to focus on intelligence-led, targeted stops. This approach has made an impact, seeing grounds to arrest in 20% of the people we stop, and a huge reduction in the amount of stops we do.

"Our clear intention is to continue with the targeted use of stop and search, and the Home Office appears to have misunderstood our response to recent rises in knife crime and our future intentions."

The disagreement comes after May, who is a front runner for the Conservative party leadership when David Cameron steps down in 2020, set herself on a collision course with Hogan-Howe and London mayor Boris Johnson by shooting down a request for the Met to be armed with water canons.