Categorized | Case Law, Criminal Justice

Stop and Search

Stop and Search

Black people are 26 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police in England and Wales. The figures relate to stop and searches under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which was introduced to deal with football hooligans and the threat of serious violence. It allows police to search anyone in a designated area without specific grounds for suspicion.

As reported in the ‘Observer’, analysis by the London School of Economics and the Open Society Justice Initiative found that there are 41.6 Section 60 searches for every 1,000 black people, compared with 1.6 for every 1,000 white people, making black people 26.6 times more likely to be stopped and searched. Asians were 6.3 times more likely to be stopped than whites, according to the analysis of Ministry of Justice figures for 2008-09. This analysis of government data has brought claims of discrimination from campaigners who say the findings corroborate concerns that black and Asian Britons are being unfairly targeted. The data reveal a marked escalation in relative searches of ethnic minorities in England and Wales. In the previous year blacks were 10.7 times more likely to be stopped than whites, and Asians 2.2 times more likely. US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, recently arrived in London to launch a campaign aimed at curbing what he says is stop and search discrimination, described the figures as “astonishing”. Interviewed on ‘Newsnight’ on Monday, he said that this race profiling, indicative of basic structural inequalities, produced a “racial dragnet that is immoral and illegal.” Not the least effect, he said, is that it deprives the police of their moral authority and credibility.

In July, Home Secretary Theresa May told Parliament that the government would change how stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act are used with immediate effect. The move was in response to a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, which found that the use of stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 amounted to a violation of the right to a private life. The court said the powers were drawn too broadly at the time of their initial authorisation and did not have enough safeguards to protect civil liberties. However, the police can still rely on powers granted by section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which allows police to stop individuals without reasonable suspicion “in anticipation of violence,” and by schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows stops in ports and airports for counterterrorism purposes.  Police use of these powers has given rise to similar problems as seen with section 44, with a disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities.
 
The National Council for Civil Liberties, now known simply as Liberty, report that a consultation on amending PACE Codes, not published on the Home Office website but only made available to certain interested organisations, includes a statement that whilst officers must take particular care not to discriminate, there “may be circumstances…where it is appropriate for officers to take account of an individual’s ethnic origin in selecting persons and vehicles to be stopped.” Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: “Stopping and searching individuals without suspicion is divisive enough without telling police they can directly discriminate on the grounds of race. Significant progress has been made since the Lawrence Inquiry but the Home Office’s planned changes to PACE will set the clock back and jeopardise race relations in the UK.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 460 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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