On 27 July 2021, home secretary Priti Patel announced the permanent removal of safeguards relating to the use of ‘section 60’ (suspicionless) stop and search powers from the Best Use of Stop and Search (BUSS) scheme, as part of the government’s ‘Beating crime plan’.
In 2014, her predecessor Theresa May acknowledged that police use of stop and search powers was ‘unfair, especially to young, black men’. So May introduced the BUSS scheme to limit race discrimination in the police use of stop and search powers and reduce the serious harms caused by it.
Home Office data for England and Wales shows that Black people are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched under section 60 than White people (2019/20 figures).
The scheme led to reductions in the use of section 60 stops and searches. However, in 2019, Priti Patel expanded a pilot suspension of safeguards over section 60 usage to all forces, claiming it would ‘empower police to take more knives off the streets’ despite weapons being found in around only 1% of section 60 stop and searches and all the evidence showing that stop and search has no significant impact on knife crime.
Call to action
Removing the section 60 BUSS scheme safeguards will result in more Black people, and people from other racialised communities, being subjected to even greater coercion and control. It reveals the home secretary’s wilful indifference to institutional and systemic racism. We need your support to challenge this. Anything you can give will be appreciated!
What are we trying to achieve?
We are calling on the home secretary to immediately reinstate the section 60 BUSS scheme safeguards.
Update (29 November 2021):
The home secretary has rowed back on the decision to ditch safeguards designed to limit discrimination in police use of stop and search powers. This means that the safeguards over police use of the power have reverted to the pre-July position of being suspended rather than permanently removed.
In a letter to Liberty and StopWatch, Priti Patel admitted that the equality impact assessment which informed the decision was inadequate, and that the matter would be reconsidered before any further decision is made over the future of the safeguards.
Update (27 October 2023):
Success! We won our legal challenge!
The Home Office has been branded ‘disingenuous’ and forced to release new documents relating to section 60 stop and search, after legal action by StopWatch.
StopWatch, who campaign for fair and accountable policing, challenged the Home Office’s refusal to release the Equality Impact Assessment relating to the Home Secretary’s decision of July 2021 to remove safeguards on the use of suspicionless stop and search powers to make it easier for police forces to use. StopWatch took the case to a tribunal after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) allowed the Home Office to keep the documents secret.
Last month, the tribunal ruled that the Home Office’s rationale for refusing to release the document was 'disingenuous' and branded the ICO 'naïve' for accepting it.
Although the safeguards have been dropped for the foreseeable future, we continue to fight for police to be held to higher standards over their use of an egregious power that has never delivered on police promises to cut violent crime, and is used to disproportionately control Black populations rather than find dangerous weapons.
For more, read our news article: Stopwatch forces ‘disingenuous’ Home Office to release stop and search documents