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  • Writer's pictureClare Jerrom

Home Secretary urges increased use of stop and search powers

Chief constables of all 43 police forces in England and Wales have been urged to use powers to arrest and investigate instances where someone is unlawfully obstructing a stop and search by the Home Secretary.

Suella Braverman gave the police forces her full backing to the 'common sense policing tactic' and to urge them to ensure their officers are prepared to use the full powers at their disposal, so they can be more proactive in preventing violence before it occurs.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: "Carrying weapons is a scourge on our society. And anyone doing so is risking their own lives as well as the lives of those around them. This dangerous culture must be brought to a stop.

"My first priority is to keep the public safe and people who insist on carrying a weapon must know that there will be consequences.

"The police have my full support to ramp up the use of stop and search, wherever necessary, to prevent violence and save more lives.

"Every death from knife crime is a tragedy. That’s why I also back the police in tackling this blight in communities which are disproportionately affected, such as among young black males. We need to do everything in our power to crack down on this violence," she added.

In its 'Police Race Action Plan: Improving policing for Black people', the National Police Chief's Council said their vision is for a police service that is 'anti-racist and trusted by Black people' but admits that "testimonies tell us that Black people find these encounters – particularly stop and search – confrontational, stigmatising and humiliating".

The report finds:

The stop and search rates are:

  • Black people, 54 per 1,000

  • Asian people, 15 per 1,000

  • White people, six per 1,000

"While powers such as stop and search are important for the police, particularly in tackling drug offending and violent crime, they have to be used proportionately and sensitively," said the action plan.

The action plan pledged that the NPCC and the College of Policing will work with the Home Office in the development of a national approach for the scrutiny of stop and search (delivery by summer 2023), which will consider adoption of additional metrics:

  • the reduction in racial disparity in the use of force

  • a public attitude survey to determine any change in Black people’s confidence in the police use of powers

Police forces will also implement the national approach for scrutiny of stop and search, said the NPCC.

However, the Home Secretary's recent drive, launched this week, comes as new data shows more than 100,000 weapons have been removed since 2019 through a range of tactics – and almost half of which were seized in stop and searches. This has also led to more than 220,000 arrests while serious violence has been driven down by 25% since 2019.

The Home Secretary has also provided an update on safeguards the government is putting in place on stop and search powers to strengthen trust between the police and local communities. Following consultation with the policing sector, the government will strengthen two of the conditions of the former Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme by putting them into law.

These conditions are:

  • police should communicate with the local community when a Section 60 order is being put in place in an area, unless this would hinder a sensitive operation

  • data on every stop and search interaction must continue to be collected for the Home Office to publish for transparency and public scrutiny

The Home Office is also working with partners to develop a national framework on how the use of police powers – including stop and search – are scrutinised at a local level.

Human rights charity Liberty says in a report 'Holding our Own - A guide to non-policing solutions to serious youth violence' that stop and search is "particularly racially disproportionate".

"This policing disproportionately targets Black people for stop and search, singling out young Black men and boys, in particular, for degrading and traumatic searches; subjects Black schoolchildren to violent and traumatic treatment; surveils people of colour based on where they live, who their friends are and what music they listen to; and convicts large groups of young, often Black, boys merely for witnessing crimes, via racist joint enterprise prosecutions," said the report.

The report highlights that Black people are stopped up to 14 times more than white people – with range depending on geography.

It adds that stop and search powers, often used for drug offences, "ultimately enables police to intimidate, harass and create violence in the lives of young people much more effectively than it is at removing illicit substances from communities".

However, the Home Secretary pointed out in her latest encouragement of the use of stop and search powers that in the year ending March 2022, 99 young people lost their lives to knife crime in England and Wales, and 31 of those victims were black. Black males are, therefore, disproportionately more likely to be killed by violence and knife crime.

"Though the government recognises black males are more likely to be stopped and searched, our first priority must be on prevention and public safety," said Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

Sammy Odoi, managing director of Wipers, said: "Stop and search is used significantly more for young Black people than any other ethnic group. While young Black people may also be proportionally more likely to be the victim of crime too, there must be transparency in the use of stop and search powers which should be used in the same way across all police forces and not left open to interpretation.

"It is discriminatory for young Black people to be subjected to the degrading and sometimes traumatising impact of stop and searches more frequently than other ethnic groups and there should be an end to discrimination of young Black people across the youth and criminal justice systems."


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