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The Offensive Weapons Bill, which is currently before Parliament, will introduce the offence of possession of a corrosive substance in a public place and provisions to extend stop and search powers to cover this offence. The use of corrosive substances as a weapon can cause significant harm and injury to individuals, families and communities and we are determined to take strong action in order to prevent these horrendous attacks.
Following the misuse of drones that caused significant disruption to Gatwick airport operations in December 2018, the Department for Transport and the Home Office have been working closely with the police to re-examine whether the police have the necessary stop and search powers to deal with a scenario where drones cause widespread disruption to the operation of aerodromes. The police have been clear that in certain circumstances a power to stop and search a person to determine if they have committed an offence related to flying a drone within the restriction zone of a licensed aerodrome would address an operational gap in their powers. The government considers such a power to be proportionate to help in the detection and investigation of incidents causing widespread disruption to the operation of aerodromes. Relevant provisions will be included within the draft Drones Bill.
The government will keep the operational requirements and needs of the police in relation to other drone offences under the Air Navigation Order 2016, other criminal purposes not covered under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Prisons Act 1952 under careful review.
The government will also keep under review the adequacy of the existing powers to tackle offences related to the misuse of laser pointers.
The Home Office seeks views as to how effective and proportionate it would be to extend the power of reasonable grounds ‘stop and search’ to cover:
- the proposed offence of carrying a corrosive substance in a public under the Offensive Weapons Bill 2018
- the misuse of laser pointers to commit certain offences under the Laser Misuse (Vehicle) Act 2018
- the misuse of drones to commit certain offences under the Air Navigation Order 2016 and the Prisons Act 1952
Section 1 of PACE provides the police with a power to stop and search a person or vehicle where they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they will find prohibited items, including offensive weapons such as knives, stolen articles, equipment related to the commission of certain offences and fireworks. Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 provides the same power in respect of controlled drugs.
The current legislation does not provide a specific power to stop and search in the case of corrosive substances possessed in a public place without good reason, laser pointers where they have been used against modes of transport, or drones and drone equipment involved in the commission of offences under the Air Navigation Order 2016 and conveying illicit items over a prison boundary.
You can also read the Welsh translation of the executive summary of the consultation document, which has been prepared in accordance with section 21 of the Welsh Language Act 1993.