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City of London police
opinion
16.05.2022

Words are like weapons

Home sec threatens to turn back time by rolling section 60 restrictions back to the 1990s, but fails to appreciate things have changed

And there we have it:

Police will have greater powers to prevent knife crime and tackle serious violence as the home secretary permanently lifts restrictions on their use of stop and search in areas where they anticipate serious violence to happen.
Source: Home Secretary backs police to increase stop and search - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

When I said the mission creep is real… Priti Patel has been desperate, d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e, to repeal the restrictions on stop and search, set by predecessor Theresa May.

Patel couldn’t care less about due diligence, transparency, accountability, or any of that. ‘Show us the equality impact assessment explaining your decision’, we asked. ‘No’, she said, ‘you’re not smart enough to understand what we’re thinking’.

So only the Home Office and the police know why they ditched the section 60 best practice rules, and it is in no one else’s interests to know why. Not mine, not yours, and certainly not those subjected to the 95 to 99% of searches that find / solve nothing.

Patel would rather mention the reductions in violent crime on her watch, and to leave us to infer that stop and search was the cause of all improvements that we the British public, benefit from, so you can thank her political party when the next general election comes around:

‘Since 2019, the police have removed over 50,000 knives and offensive weapons from our streets and in the 2 years to March 2021, over 150,000 arrests were made following stop and search, preventing thousands of possible fatal injuries…
‘Since 2019, stop and search use has increased by around 85% and has contributed to over 50,000 deadly knives and offensive weapons being taken off our streets…
‘These measures are intended to help further drive down knife crime after recent statistics have indicated there has been a 4% decrease in stabbings in the year to December 2021. From March 2019 until now, under this government, stabbings have fallen around 10%.’

It’s almost as a WHOLE PANDEMIC never happened. Apparently, stop and search is the silver bullet (for want of a better phrase) that has reduced crime, and would make even more progress if it weren’t restrained by the dastardly Red Tape. Which explains Patel’s urge to restore police officers’ confidence to use this ‘vital power’. Her statement boasts that they soon will have the ‘full operational flexibility and the confidence’ they need to help ‘rid the streets of dangerous weapons and save lives’.

WHAT WEAPONS? DO YOU READ YOUR OWN STATS? THE FIND RATE IS SO LOW, I'D HAVE BETTER LUCK TRAWLING CAR BOOT SALES FOR THEM!

The number of section 60 searches in 2020/21 fell 49% on the previous year.  1% of searches found offensive weapons and 4% of searches ended in arrest

But restoring section 60 search legislation to the original Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is not about numbers. It’s about taking us back to a time when violence, burglary and theft were last at their peak, and behaving as though crime is at those levels again and needs to be dealt with in the same way as it was then, when it plainly doesn't.

Crime estimates from the CSEW December 1981 to March 2020, and TCSEW estimates for January 2021 to December 2021 interviews

As I wrote just last week, the most common criminal threats people face are quite different now, so promising police forces will no longer need to publicly communicate section 60 authorisations is clearly not what any already overpoliced communities want.

A little transparency would be nice though, which begs the question: why does section 60 really exist?

If there were any truth I ever heard on the subject from a police chief, it was when former Met boss Cressida Dick told the London Assembly in October 2021 that section 60 stops are used primarily ‘not to find the knife, but to be in the area where we think one gang is going to be fighting another gang’.

And there exists a more modern policing power that fits the purpose of controlling a space to prevent public disorder and violence: the section 35 dispersal order that comes under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Using it in conjunction with intelligence-led section 1 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 search powers where necessary would make section 60 completely redundant. But it would also force an implicit admission that oppressive policing of places with notable Black and Asian populations is what certain police forces have been doing all this time.

Until then, expect to see the ratcheting up of section 60 as a blanket surveillance tactic on those living in the most marginalised, impoverished communities, who will continue to have their civil liberties sacrificed for Priti Patel to tell the rest of us we've never lived so free.

By Eugene K

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

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