5 October 2015

Briefing on Stop and Search and PCC developments: July to September 2015

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Northamptonshire PCC: ‘ban police officers who abuse stop and search’; Monthly data on stops and searches now available; Terrorism examinations fall whilst port detentions rise; Schedule 7 complaints agreement reached; Terrorism watchdog: government has ‘unfinished business’ on reforming terrorism detentions at ports

< Previous briefing (April to June 2015)

 

Essential reading covering the following key developments on stop and search and related matters regarding Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) between July to September 2015:

  1. Northamptonshire PCC: ‘ban police officers who abuse stop and search’
  2. Monthly data on stops and searches now available
  3. Terrorism examinations fall whilst port detentions rise
  4. Schedule 7 complaints agreement reached
  5. Government has ‘unfinished business’ on reforming detentions at ports, says UK counter-terrorism watchdog

 

1. Northamptonshire PCC: ‘ban police officers who abuse stop and search’

Northamptonshire PCC has called for officers who abuse stop and search powers to be banned from using it and apologise to the person searched, a policy his police force already has in place. This follows a public consultation held by the PCC, Adam Simmonds, to gather feedback from local communities on their perceptions and experience of stop and search. Based upon a public survey of over 1,000 and a number of focus groups with young people, the study revealed high levels of dissatisfaction in the police amongst people who had been searched or knew someone who had been searched by Northamptonshire police in comparison to those who did not. More than half of people searched said that they were not offered a record of the encounter despite this being a legal requirement and just under half of respondents felt that they were not given a credible explanation or treated with respect.

Adam Simmonds has also appointed Duwayne Brooks, London's Deputy Mayor's Critical friend on Stop and Search, to review the use of those powers in Northamptonshire. The full report and recommendations can be obtained from the PCC’s website.

 

2. Monthly data now available on stops and searches force-by-force

Monthly data on how forces use stop and search is now available online. This data covers 24 of the total 43 police forces in England and Wales and includes the total number of recorded searches for the previous month, time of day they are carried out, the outcomes, and a breakdown of the ethnicity and age of people searched.

 

3. Terrorism examinations fall whilst port detentions rise

Detentions at ports have increased by over 154% from 517 in 2013/14 to 1,311 in 2014/15 under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000.[1] This is according to Home Office data which also shows a 28% fall in examinations which can last a maximum of one hour before officers must take the decision to detain them for up to a further five hours or release them. Last year, there were 31,769 examinations compared to 44,118 in the previous year. The increases in dententions are likely to be partly due to legislative changes made last year coming into effect which now require officers to detain people if they wish to examine them for longer than an hour. 

As with previous years, the single largest group of people detained under schedule 7 are people from Asian backgrounds and the 2014/15 financial year saw sharp rises across all ethnicities, again in part due to the changes in legislation.

 

4. Schedule 7 complaints agreement reached

The Metropolitan Police service (MPS) have agreed to allow the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the body responsible for investigating complaints against the police, to have access to information concerning why a person was stopped under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000[1] and any intelligence officers relied upon to make the stop.

This agreement follows legal action the IPCC took against what it claimed was a lack of cooperation by the MPS in its investigation of examinations and detentions under this power. The agreement also means that police forces are no longer expected to automatically refer all schedule 7 complaints onto the IPCC as has been the case since July 2011. A copy of the agreement can be obtained from the IPCC website.

 

5. Government has ‘unfinished business’ on reforming detentions at ports, says UK counter-terrorism watchdog

David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, has warned the government to make changes to the use of schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, the widest ranging stop and search power in the UK,[1] or risk a successful legal challenge to those powers. This was part of his annual report on the use of various counter-terrorism powers where he also reiterated his calls to all police forces to make public data on the use of section 43 counter-terrorism street searches.

Anderson had previously expressed concern over (i) the lack of suspicion required to use the more intrusive aspects of the powers, including the downloading and retention of data from people’s electronic items; (ii) the lack of ‘clear’ and ‘proportionate’ rules to govern how data from electronic items is retained; and (iii) answers to questions during an examination or detention had not been explicitly rendered inadmissible for use in criminal proceeding. Commenting on a recent and unsuccessful legal challenge to Schedule 7 dismissed by the UK’s Supreme Court, Anderson warned that: "a strong indication appears to have been given, by the highest court in the land, that the admissibility of incriminating answers given in response to Schedule 7 questioning should be expressly excluded by statute; that electronic data cannot be lawfully retained for more than a limited time; and that if Schedule 7 is to continue to be lawfully used for long detentions, a measure of suspicion (probably objective suspicion) must be required beyond a certain point. To put it more simply, claimants who have been detained without objective suspicion for six hours, or had their electronic data retained for a substantial period, may now be able successfully to challenge those aspects of their treatment." (para 6.38, p.35).

More information on this power can be found in our briefing.

 

Notes:

[1]     Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 is the UK’s widest ranging stop/detention power. It provides officers at ports with powers to ‘examine’ people for up to an hour and then physically ‘detain’ them for a further 5 hours without requiring the usual legal requirement for reasonable suspicion to believe that they are involved in terrorism. Counter-terrorism officers may question people travelling and search their belongings and any associated vehicle(s) in the port; strip-search them; and download and retain data on electronic items such as mobile phones, tablet PCs or laptops. People examined or detained under this power are legally obliged to answer questions put and, therefore, do not have the usual right to silence.