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Home Secretary launches consultation into stop and search

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A consultation on how police use stop and search powers has been launched today (2 July) by Home Secretary Theresa May.

Stop and search is a vital police tool - and especially important in relation to combating gangs, knife crime and drug offences.

In the last year in London alone, stop and searches resulted in 45,000 criminals being arrested, including more than 3,000 who were carrying weapons and guns, and more than 7,000 in possession of suspected stolen goods.

Vital police tool

But when it is over-used, or when people are targeted when they do not need to be, it is a waste of police time and erodes community confidence in the police.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

The government supports the ability of police officers to stop and search suspects.

But if it’s being used too much or with the wrong people, then that is a dreadful waste of police time. It must be applied fairly and in a way that builds community confidence in the police rather than undermining it.

More than one million stop and searches are carried out every year – taking up more than 300,000 hours of officer time. On average, only about nine per cent of those incidents results in an arrest and the figures also vary considerably among forces.

Figures show that people from a black or ethnic minority background are up to seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than those from white backgrounds.

This consultation will look at whether stop and search is used appropriately and fairly, and how it can be better targeted and more intelligence-led.

The Home Secretary said:

I want to see stop and search used only when it’s needed, I want to see higher search to arrest ratios, I want to see better community engagement, and I want to see more efficient recording practices across the country.

Independent review

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has carried out an independent review into these powers and its recommendations will be published next week. The report is expected to provide, for the first time, a comprehensive evidence base of how stop and search is used and recorded across the country.

The results of the public consultation, which can also be taken online, will shape future work with HMIC, the College of Policing and police forces to ensure stop and search works fairly and in the interests of all members of the public.

Background information

  • The search-to-arrest ratio varies considerably across forces. In Cumbria the figure is three per cent; in Kent it is 19 per cent. In London, where most stop and search incidents take place, it is eight per cent, in Greater Manchester it is eight per cent.
  • Police stopped and searched 1.2 million persons and/or vehicles under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and other legislation in 2011/12.
  • Police forces in England and Wales stopped and searched 9 per cent fewer people in 2011/12 than in 2010/11.

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