Home Secretary urges police to improve 'targeted' stop and search or risk primary legislation
Categories: Latest News
Wednesday February 18 2015
The Daily Mail reports on the speech delivered by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust Criminal Justice Lecture yesterday in which she outlined steps to address the disproportionate impact of stop and search powers on ethnic minorities.
A review of the powers has already been conducted at the behest of the Home Secretary with the subsequent report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary affirming the findings of numerous reports by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission detailing the degree of disproportionality in the exercise of the powers and their ineffectiveness when measured as a ratio of stops to arrests.
The Daily Mail details excerpts from the Home Secretary’s speech in which she related anecdotal evidence “exposing the excessive and inappropriate use of stop and search.”
She added, “evidence [shows] that if you are black or from a minority ethnic background that you are up to seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than if you are white.”
The Daily Mail adds that the Home Secretary’s plans to introduce changes to the powers to exercise stop and search, to eradicate its excessive use and the negative impact on community relations and trust in policing, in the Queen’s Speech last year were scuppered by Number 10.
The tussle between the Home Secretary and the PM led to the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, adding the opposition’s support to calls for an overhaul in the use of the powers.
The Home Secretary said yesterday: “But let me be absolutely clear: if stops and searches do not continue to fall, if the use of these powers does not become more targeted, and stop-to-arrests ratios do not improve, then a Conservative Government will not hesitate to bring in primary legislation to make it happen.”
Last month, police forces began a process of publishing details on stops and search online including information on the ethnicity, gender and age range of those stopped by police.
The Daily Mail further notes the introduction of a new voluntary code for all police forces by the Home Secretary which sets out “a restriction on the so-called ‘no suspicion’ power, which allows officers to stop and search even when they do not suspect a crime has been committed.
“A chief police officer must now believe it is ‘necessary’ to authorise use of the power because violence ‘will’ take place.”
Previously, a lower ranking officer’s authorisation was required if they suspected violence ‘may’ occur.
The new code also requires forces “to record the outcome of searches in more detail, including if the suspect was arrested and charged.”
The voluntary nature of the code means that compliance is not mandatory hence the Home Secretary’s suggestion that the Conservatives may move to put requirements on a statutory footing if targeted stops and stop-to-arrests ratios do not improve.