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Stop and search more likely for BAME people under relaxed rules

MORE people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are likely to be targeted under relaxed stop-and-search rules, despite not having committed crimes, an official report has said.

Evidence also suggested “changes in the level of stop and search have, at best, only minimal effects on violent crime,” according to the findings released on Thursday.

In August the Home Office rolled back restrictions on the controversial tactic as part of a bid to crack down on knife crime and violence.

The powers make it easier for officers to invoke sweeping stop-and-search powers under section 60 (s60) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, after conditions imposed in 2014 when Theresa May was home secretary — which saw a rise in arrests and fall in use of the measure — were lifted.

An equality impact assessment published by the Home Office on Thursday warned the relaxed conditions could also create “broader issues” with trust in police among the public.

Under existing measures, evidence pointed to a “disparity in the use of s60s on individuals from BAME communities, especially black men compared with white men.”

It added: “It is possible that this disparity is at least in part a result of discrimination/stereotyping on the part of officers and forces carrying out searches under s60.”

Looking at possible effects of relaxed conditions, the report said: “If we are to assume that disparity rates in the use of s60 persist, then it is likely more BAME individuals are searched under this power despite not committing any offences.

Section 60 powers give officers the right to search people in a defined area during a specific time period when they believe serious violence will occur.

The changes mean officers can stop and search anyone in a designated area “without needing serious grounds for suspicion if serious violence is anticipated” and there now only needs to be a reasonable belief an incident involving serious violence “may” rather than “will” occur.

Inspectors and superintendents can authorise the move rather than needing approval from a senior colleague.

It can be in force for 24 hours rather than 15 and extended to 48 hours rather than the previous limit of 39.

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