23 September 2013

StopWatch Response to the Home Office Consultation

StopWatch's avatar

Neither the Home Office nor senior police officers are exercising effective strategic oversight in the use of stop and search. Today, we submit an 80 page report to the government that reviews the law and practice on stop and search and makes wide-ranging recommendations for change.

On 2nd July, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a public consultation into the use of stop and search powers. May noted that stop and search was being misused - wasting police time and undermining public confidence. Importantly she recognised the racial disparities and drew attention to the appallingly low arrest rates. It was, she said “time to get it right on stop and search.”

Over the last three months, StopWatch has collected perceptions, experiences and recommendations from its members as well as attended and supported consultation events across the country. Today, we submit an 80 page report that reviews the law and practice on stop and search and makes wide-ranging recommendations for change.

StopWatch found:

•    Police don't understand what stop and search is for
•    No convincing evidence that stop and search is effective
•    Many stop and searches are groundless and unlawful
•    Unnecessary intrusion into liberty and privacy
•    Alarming fact of children subject to street searches
•    Communities do not distinguish between the different types of stop-searches and all are of concern
•    Stop and search for drugs is the leading cause of disproportionality for reasonable suspicion stop and searches
•    Strong evidence of damage to community trust and confidence
•    Lack of oversight of all powers (including stops, traffic stops and strip searches)
•    Lack of leadership and supervision

StopWatch proposes:

•    Radical reform of all police-public encounters – police should relate first to people as citizens not suspects
•    Radical reform of stop search powers (including stops, traffic stops and all stop and search powers) and reduce their use
•    Eliminate racial disparities in stop and search use
•    Repeal section 60 and Schedule 7  - stop and search should never be conducted without reasonable suspicion
•    Restrict PACE searches to where there is genuine 'reasonable suspicion'
•    Regulate traffic stops and strip searches
•    Stop and searches for low level drug possession should be deprioritised
•    Police leaders work with the community to ensure powers are used lawfully, effectively and fairly

Read our full response here

Find out more nformation on the Home Office Consultation