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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Reforming stop and search

The announcement by the Home Secretary today that she will be reforming the rules around stop and search after it was revealed that 250,000 conducted last year may have been illegal, is very welcome.

Theresa May said that official figures have shown that people from black and ethnic minority communities are up to seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
She added that she could only assume that people are being stopped and searched solely because they were black:

She is to revise the code of practice under which stop and searches are carried out to make clear what constitutes “reasonable grounds for suspicion” which is the the legal basis under which officers can stop and carry out a search of a person.

Police officers who fail to use the powers properly will face disciplinary or performance proceedings, Mrs May told MPs.

Other measures include a review of training for stop and search, an assessment of the fitness of officers to use the powers and an instruction to police forces that they are required to allow public scrutiny of stop and search records.

A voluntary “Best Use of Stop and Search” scheme it to be launched this summer in which participating police forces will provide more detail of the link, or lack of a link, between a search and its outcome.

The scheme will also allow members of the public to apply to accompany police officers on patrol and the introduction of a stop and search “community trigger” in which officers must explain to the public how the power is being used where there have been a large number of complaints.

These reforms are long overdue. What is astonishing though is Labour's insistence that she could have gone further. Given their party's record on these matters and their disregard for civil liberties a period of silence might be their best response.
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