I must begin with an apology dear reader, I had hoped to have finished with the thorny subject of Stop and Search, but it seems that at least one reprise is needed.
You may remember that in 2014 the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, issued a diktat regarding Police use of Stop and Search.
“I want to make myself absolutely clear: if the numbers do not come down, if stop and search does not become more targeted, if those stop-to-arrest ratios do not improve considerably, the government will return with primary legislation to make those things happen,”
Boy oh boy did those figures come down.
You can not be unaware of the epidemic of Knife Crime, Moped Crime and Acid Attacks spreading like wildfire across the streets of London and elsewhere. It has got so bad that I recently ‘shared’ a blog written by a Member of the Public, Jim Hind, in which he suggests, or asks for, an increase in the number of Stop and Searches by Police to tackle these crimes.
Increased use of Stop and Search – A controversial subject for many, but in order to allow police to take preventative action to address the issue, should Stop and Search be increased in order to locate people carrying these substances before they have the chance to use them? It has proven effective in the past with knife crime.
To be fair, if you read the blog in its entirety, that is only one of several discussion points, but if things have got so bad that a Member of the Public is suggesting MORE Stop and Search then maybe Theresa May got it wrong in 2014.
Stop and Search is not the only tactic available to Police Officers faced with crimes of these types, but it is an important, and I believe, effective one. I have, however, always stated that any and all stops carried out by officers MUST BE LAWFUL, i.e. the officers grounds for conducting that stop must exist and be reasonable.
Reasonable grounds for suspicion is the legal test which a police officer must satisfy before they can stop and detain individuals or vehicles to search them under powers such as section 1 of PACE (to find stolen or prohibited articles) and section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (to find controlled drugs). This test must be applied to the particular circumstances in each case and is in two parts:
(i) Firstly, the officer must have formed a genuine suspicion in their own mind that they will find the object for which the search power being exercised allows them to search (see Annex A, second column, for examples); and
(ii) Secondly, the suspicion that the object will be found must be reasonable. This means that there must be an objective basis for that suspicion based on facts, information and/or intelligence which are relevant to the likelihood that the object in question will be found, so that a reasonable person would be entitled to reach the same conclusion based on the same facts and information and/or intelligence.
Officers must therefore be able to explain the basis for their suspicion by reference to intelligence or information about, or some specific behaviour by, the person concerned
Many factors can constitute Reasonable Grounds but they must exist. If the officer can satisfy himself/herself that reasonable grounds exist to lawfully conduct a Stop and Search then, in my opinion, no politician should ever be able to prevent or deter that from happening. Not for any reason. It is excercising a lawful power granted under s1 Police and Criminal Act 1984 (PACE) and nowhere within that Act does it say “but don’t do it if Theresa May doesn’t like it”.
The current Codes of Practice concerning Stop and Search under PACE can be read, in full, here.
However, Theresa May did decide to stick her oar in and issue the diktat above. How much difference has she made? Well, according to the data that I have now received from almost all Police Forces (only Leicestershire and Sussex have yet to give me their responses, and both are seriously overdue) Stop and Search has been decimated. One Force, Greater Manchester, has reduced Stop and Search from 37,321 in 2012 to 2,828 in 2015, a good thing? I have managed to locate some data for Leicestershire and Sussex but it has not been provided directly by the Force to me, but should be about 95% accurate, and perfectly adequate for the purpose for which I require it.
I’m not going to put any spin on it, just let the figures tell their own story, please see the chart below.
#WhoseStreets? Certainly not ours any longer. The battle for control of the streets is long and arduous, and not yet over, but certainly not being helped by Government diktats and Government cuts. I have previously mentioned elsewhere that there is a Crisis In Policing, and having one arm tied behind your back by the “Party of Law and Order” is not helping.
The Police Officers on the Front Line will ALWAYS do their best to control, prevent, detect and prosecute crime and criminals, but they don’t need ill-informed or ill-advised interference from politicians.
It is about time that the National Police Chiefs Council and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary stood up and visibly supported the officers in their war on crime, and it is becoming a war. They should be firmly advising Theresa May and her Government that she has got it wrong, and unless something significant changes in the very near future then the streets will be totally lost to the thugs and thieves.