3 November 2010
StopWatch responds to the PACE Code of Practice
StopWatch submitted a response to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code of Practice A.
In our response, we highlight our concerns about how the proposals represent a significant change to the operation of stop and search; they have the potential to increase disproportionate targeting of ethnic minority communities, and further damage the relationship between these communities and the police.
We are concerned that:
- The proposed amendments to the Pace Code of Practice A were made with little-to-no public consultation. They were not publically available on the Home Office website and the timeframe for responses was limited to three weeks rather than the usual 12 week consultation period. The proposed changes represent a significant change to the operation of stop and search and have the potential to increase disproportionate targeting of ethnic minority communities and further damage the relationship between communities and the police.
The amendments remove the requirement to record stop and account. Over two million people are stopped and asked to account for their actions every year and official data shows disproportionate rates of use. The revisions propose allowing individual police forces to reinstate recording of stops when there are local concerns about disproportionality, but the decision rests entirely in police hands, denying affected communities a role in the decision-making.
The amendments reduce the recording requirements for stops and searches. The proposals will make it harder for the police or communities to determine the effectiveness of stop and search powers and may lead to allegations of harassment and abuse that cannot be substantiated or disproved. Overall, the changes will weaken both internal and external accountability.
The amendments allow police officers to stop and search members of the public on the grounds of their ethnicity under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This writes ethnic profiling into official police guidance and would breach section 29 of the Equalities Act 2010 and the duty to prevent unlawful discrimination under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.