In June 2023, the Home Office published findings from commissioned research into ‘the use of section 60 (s60) stop and search in a pilot introduced in 2019’. The pilot in question was the Home Office’s relaxation of the Best Use of Stop and Search (BUSS) scheme conditions, initially trialled for seven police forces (‘original forces’) in March 2019, then extended to all forces and the British Transport Police (‘later forces’) in England and Wales in August of the same year.
The research gathered the opinions of police officers and community scrutiny leads over the use of s60 powers during the pilot period (qualitative), as well as data of the pattern of s60 authorisations before and during the pilot (quantitative).
When we consider that the arrest rate for offensive weapons under s60 of the Criminal Justice Public Order Act 1994 has never been higher than 4%, according to annual Home Office records, then the qualitative findings from this pilot provide perspective on how the officers expect the power to be used beyond the question of its effectiveness. However, as our paper explains, it is clear from the quantitative findings of the pilot that s60 stands in contrast to the home secretary’s claim that stop and search powers can ‘seize dangerous weapons and prevent knife crime’.
Overall, the findings of the pilot portray a fundamental dishonesty in the justification of s60 use. Many forces instinctively know this, which explains why the power has remained dormant for the last five years for several forces (Cleveland, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Dyfed-Powys, Gwent) and it is only intermittently used among many others. This, combined with the persistently abysmal find and arrest outcome rates, only prove that s60 offers nothing but a home for systemic abuses of police authority and that all forces would benefit from the power being scrapped altogether.
For a full explanation of our position, please download and read our briefing.