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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Legislate to mandate changes in police practices if ‘stop and search’ does not improve

Last updated: 09:36am 24 January 2019

We will legislate to mandate changes in police practices if ‘stop and search’ does not become more targeted and ’stop to arrest’ ratios do not improve.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.56

Our verdict

Police stop and search powers have a long and troubled history since the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). And the controversy continues – a review of police legitimacy by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) in December 2017 said:

“HMICFRS is concerned that forces are not able to demonstrate that the use of stop and search powers is consistently reasonable and fair. In particular, there is over- representation of BAME people, and black people in particular, in stop and search data which many forces are unable to explain.”

As well as PACE, the police also have stop and search powers authorised under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This policy is a promise to legislate if stop and search does not become more targeted and there is not an increase in the “stop to arrest” ratio.

The statistics for the year ending 31 March 2018 show, for stop and search under PACE:

  • an arrest rate of 17%, a similar proportion to last year
  • a fall of 8% [in the number of stops and searches] compared with the previous year
  • [drug searches] accounted for 60%, a similar proportion (60%) to the previous year

And under Section 60:

  • quadruple the number of searches in the year ending March 2017
  • the proportion that resulted in an arrest was 8%, a fall of 3% compared with the previous year

Falling numbers of stops and searches under PACE might suggest more targeted use of the powers, but the rise in the numbers under Section 60 does not. There has been no improvement in “stop to arrest” ratios under either measure.

The government promised to legislate if there were not improvements in targeting and “stop to arrest” ratios. We can’t find clear evidence of either, and there is no sign of legislation, so we’re marking this as ‘not started’. Follow this policy for future developments.

Stop and search for the facts

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