18 April 2016

Briefing on Stop and Search and PCC developments: January to March 2016

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London terrorism searches rise further; Police to record traffic stops announces Home Secretary; Port stops continue to fall; Police and crime commissioners’ role to be expanded further, announces the Home Secretary; PCC Election 2016: List of Running Candidates Published; Ports stops must not be used arbitrarily, says Home Office; David Miranda ports search lawful but violates press freedom; Election 2016: Running list of candidates for police and crime commissioner

Briefing on Stop and Search and PCC developments: January to March 2016

  1. London terrorism searches rise further
  2. Police to record traffic stops announces Home Secretary
  3. Port stops continue to fall
  4. Police and crime commissioners’ role to be expanded further, announces the Home Secretary
  5. PCC Election 2016: list of running candidates published
  6. Ports stops must not be used arbitrarily, says Home Office
  7. David Miranda ports search lawful but violates press freedom

 

1. London terrorism searches rise further

Terrorism-related searches across London rose again in the last quarter, according to Home Office data. Under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000, police officers can conduct a street search of anyone they suspect of being a terrorist. Terrorism searches have been rising since summer 2014.

The figures for 2015 show a 32% increase in searches from 394 in 2014 to 520 in 2015, with a marked increase in October to December 2015 where 203 searches were conducted accounting for 40% of the searches that year. Arrests also rose from 27 in 2014 to 57 in 2015, however, the precise number of suspected terrorists arrested is unknown but likely to be much smaller because the data does not provide figures for how many of these individuals were subsequently charged for terrorism. It also does not distinguish between arrests for terrorism-related reasons or completely unrelated matters, such as people not complying with the search or discovery of contraband items being found like drugs.

Compared to the previous year, whilst searches of people from white ethnicities decreased slightly, there was an increase in encounters of people from minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly of Asians which rose from 88 searches in 2014 to 141 in  2015.

 

2. Police to record traffic stops announces Home Secretary

Police stops under road and traffic legislation are to be recorded, announced the Home Secretary. An estimated 10% of the population are stopped under these powers which do not require the police to have any suspicion that drivers are breaking the law to stop them but they do have additional powers to inspect the validity of drivers’ documents or conduct a search of drivers, passengers and vehicles.

Currently, there is no statutory recording of those powers and a recent national inspection of police forces’ use of traffic stops raised concerns over the lack of monitoring of those encounters and the potentially discriminatory experience of drivers from minority ethnic backgrounds.

 

3. Port stops continue to fall

Examinations at ports under terrorism legislation has continued to fall according to figures released by the Home Office. Examinations under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000[1] fell from just over 35,000 in 2014 to over 27,500 in 2015. Most examinations took under an hour and, historically, white people were the largest group of people examined at ports. However, in 2015, Asians became the single largest group examined.

Detentions at ports, which can last for up to 6 hours, rose by 785 from 1,043 in 2014 to 1,828 in 2015. As in previous years, people from Asian or Chinese and Other backgrounds were more likely to be detained but figures are not released on the length of detentions nor the outcome of these encounters to measure success.

Strip-searches were carried out on 7 occasions but no comparisons could be made to previous years as this is the first time that this data has been published.


4. Police and crime commissioners’ role to be expanded further, announces the Home Secretary

The Home Secretary recently announced the government’s intentions to further expand the role of elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to give them a greater role within the wider criminal justice system beyond policing. These changes are in addition to current proposals to place the overall responsibility for managing complaints against the police under PCCs as well as fire and rescue services. Full details are expected to be announced after the PCC election due to be held in May 2016.

 

5. PCC Election 2016 List of Running Candidates Published

A list of declared candidates running for the position of police and crime commissioner (PCC) across the country has been published by the Home Office. The election will be held in every police force area outside of London on Thursday 5th May.

 

6. Ports stops must not be used arbitrarily, says Home Office

Following an unsuccessful legal challenge to a wide ranging stop and detention power confined to UK ports and airports, the Home Office has issued guidance to counter-terrorism officers on how to base their decision-making on who to subject to a schedule 7 stop.[1] The interim guidelines advise counter-terrorism officers based at ports that their decision to examine or detain a person must not be arbitrary despite the power not requiring any suspicion to believe that a person is a terrorist in order to stop, question or detained them for up to 6 hours under that power. It also states that a person’s perceived ethnicity or religious affiliation can be used “if present in association with factors which show a connection with the threat from terrorism.” Previously, port officers were advised that using a person’s ethnicity or religious affiliation should not be part of this decision-making process.

Although the Supreme Court rejected the legal challenge, it warned that the existing advice contained in the police code of practice relating to ethnic or religious profiling was “potentially confusing”. The Home Office intends to revise the codes of practice to reflect this and a number of recent court judgements and subject it to a public consultation (see also David Miranda judgement, below). StopWatch will publish the details once this is made public.

 

7. David Miranda ports search lawful but violates press freedom

The U.K’s Court of Appeal recently ruled that the port detention of journalist David Miranda was lawful and proportionate but the powers violated human rights laws because they do not provide sufficient safeguards to protect journalistic material.

The challenge was brought by Miranda, the partner of the journalist who published information on the files leaked by Edward Snowden relating to U.S.’s global mass surveillance programme. Miranda was detained in 2013 under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, the widest ranging stop power in the U.K.[1] His initial legal challenge was dismissed by the High Court in 2014 but has now been overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The Home Office intends to revise the codes of practice governing how officers use this power to reflect a number of recent court judgements and subject it to a public consultation. StopWatch will publish the details once they are made public.



[1] Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 is the widest ranging stop power in the UK and provides counter-terrorism officers at ports with the broad powers to (a) briefly stop and question a person, and (b) if desired, to then detain them for up to six hours for a more intensive questioning and a search of themselves, vehicle (if in the port), their luggage and belongings, and download information from their electronic items, including mobile phones, laptops, tablet PCs, etc. Officers do not require any level of suspicion to believe a person is involved in terrorism in order to apply any of these provisions, something criticised by the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC.