Scaling back stop and search

Police-1024x681We have long warned against the risk of police powers being used far beyond how Parliament intended, and in situations where there is no real cause for suspicion. Stop and search powers have been one of the starkest example of how things can get out of control.

The use of the powers have always been controversial, especially amongst ethnic minority communities, however there was public outrage after it came to light that between 2007-2009 450,000 people were stopped and searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act; none were convicted or terrorism-related charges.

As the Home Secretary told Parliament today:

“But as important as stop and search undoubtedly is, we have to be frank about widespread public concern regarding its use. Official statistics show that there are more than one million stop and search incidents recorded every year. But on average only about nine per cent of those incidents result in an arrest, and that figure prompts me to question whether stop and search is always used appropriately.”

Since the election the Home Secretary has taken several steps to improve the way stop and search operates, and we applaud her determination in bringing the system under control and welcome the consultation announced today.

The statement highlighted how the disproportionate use of stop and search both undermines community confidence and wastes police time, and set out plans to ensure the powers were used more sparingly, citing pilot schemes that demonstrate this is possible without jeopardising public safety.

The pilot schemes, undertaken by five police forces including by the Metropolitan police, saw a more ‘intelligence led’ approach to stop and search. This approach has been hailed as being a success by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, due to an increase in the rate of detections and arrests alongside a reduction of up to half the number of stop and search incidents.

The Guardian has highlighted that largest volume of searchers take place under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which require officers to have a “reasonable suspicion” they will find something. But concerns have also been raised about the use of “exceptional” section 60 searchers, which allow officers to stop and search anyone in any area where they believe violence or disorder is about to take place. The measure was initially introduced to help curtail football hooliganism, but has since been widely used to tackle knife crime.

The Home Secretary is absolutely right to describe the many cases that people are wrongfully stopped and searched as being ‘a dreadful waste of time’ and we hope that her remarks will ensure that police forces are conducing common sense policing and are using the powers, which were intended for the most serious of crimes and terrorism, are being used correctly.

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in Civil Liberties, Police | 3 Comments


  1. David
    2nd July 2013

    Why didn’t they just listen to the warnings in the first place? We knew what would happen when they gave the police broad powers of stop and search with little accountability. The same goes for all the other various disproportionate surveillance we are subject to and the bogus, usually highly emotive, justifications of terrorism/paedophilia etc. that act as enablers for more of the same.

    At the time the case for ‘anti-terror’ stop and search was made that it would ‘deter would-be terrorists from planning/carrying out attacks’ and that innocent people shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Complete nonsense of course and treating everyone as a suspect doesn’t prevent terrorism.

    Having been subject to this kind of stop and search myself, the only thing it does is make you feel harassed. This was compounded by the Kafkaesque way they didn’t need to give you any particular reason for singling you out from anyone else. When concerns about ethnic targeting were made the gov was quick to state that it was random (supposedly), but how could that really be the case? Surely, they must have been using criteria such as: baggy clothing, dark appearance, odd behaviour etc. If they were then I don’t think we had any right to know. The police man that stopped me only made reference to ‘terrorism’ despite my repeated attempts to find out why I had been singled out and he ended with the chilling statement that ‘even terrorists behave reasonably’, which I took to be an admittance that every one of us was a suspect now. That is the kind of lazy and authoritarian thinking that bad law creates.

    Even though ‘anti-terror’ stop and search has now been rolled back (I believe) that doesn’t stop the police from doing the same thing using other laws. I was subject to what I believe was a ‘stop and account’ which morphed into a stop and search when once again, I asked why I had been singled out. No explanation was made other than that there had been particular crimes in the area and that I should give them my name, address and where I lived. Now, after my previous encounter I knew that I’m not obliged to give any information unless they have a reasonable suspicion. Why should I account for myself whilst minding my own business walking down the road one afternoon in my local area? I took offence to this fishing attempt and seeming quite annoyed, the officer stated that he would use a completely unrelated personal item to trace my details (even though this is against the data protection act) and left me on my way.

    After my experiences I have less faith in the police force. The safeguard of reasonable suspicion is there for a reason. It’s not okay to make people feel like criminals because it makes your job easier.

  2. Guest789
    4th July 2013

    How about scaling back section 59 of the road traffic act? Why should mere heresay get my vehicle removed from me? the police should need EVIDENCE for that, yet BBW remain suspiciously silent over that issue, why is that I wonder, is BBW a false flag?

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    7th July 2013

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