The answer to this, I think, very much depends on your opinion of Stop and Search. It is controversial, undoubtedly, but is it legitimate? Is it effective? Is it necessary?
Once upon a time, in 2014, Theresa May, as Home Secretary, instructed the Police Service of England and Wales to reduce their use of Stop and Search stating that it was disproportionate towards certain sectors of the community.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
Nobody wins when stop and search is misapplied. It is a waste of police time. It is unfair, especially to young black men. It is bad for public confidence in the police.
The proposals I have outlined today amount to a comprehensive package of reform. I believe that they should contribute to a significant reduction in the overall use of stop and search, better and more intelligence-led stop and search and improved stop-to-arrest ratios.
But 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 these things happen.
No such instruction was issued to Police Scotland, or Police Service of Northern Ireland.
As early as 2013 Mrs May had decided upon a reform of Stop and Search, and most definitely let everybody know her intentions.
She had been ‘informed’ that young black men were seven times more likely to be ‘targeted’ than whites.
Mrs May launched a consultation on her proposals in July 2013 and told MPs she wanted to make sure stop-and-search was used fairly and only when it is needed.
In answer to a couple of points in the last paragraph in the extract above, have the numbers come down?
Have they ever.
The above pretty chart is based on figures obtained by me from the 43 Forces in England and Wales, and may not align with figures quoted by our beloved media.
So, the first answer is an unambiguous YES.
Has the stops-to-arrest ratio improved?
The chart below represents the stops-to-arrest ratio for a rolling 12 month period in London in about 2016
At the beginning of his graph 8.3% of 533,427 people stopped were getting arrested. This means that 44,274 people stopped were getting arrested. Fast Forward to 19% of 160,694 people arrested as a result of “better”, “more intelligence led” application of Stop and Search. It seems like we’re doing SOOOOOOO much better.
In a 12 month period the stops-to-arrest rate has increased from 8.3% to an impressive 19%, by doing fewer Stop/Searches more effectively.
In reality those figures show that the Met arrested only 30,532 people, almost 33% FEWER. The total number of people paying a visit to Custody Suites across London as a direct result of being Stopped and Searched was about one third less.
In the meantime, Knife Crime in London soared. Once again, don’t be bamboozled by some of the huge figures quoted by our media, they include Knife-Enabled Crime, a Robbery for example where a knife was produced but not used to injure anybody. I am referring to Deaths and Non-Fatal stabbings.
Sadly I don’t have Knife Crime data dating back to 2012 as this is not the post I anticipated writing and events have overtaken me.
What can’t speak can’t lie. Force figures provided under FOIA and replicated without ‘massage’. As Stop and Search declined over the three years, Knife Crime rose.
In London the pretty chart looks like this
The increase in Knife Crime is very much of the same order as nationally, but the reduction in Stop and Search has been much steeper.
As a faux-academic I am not qualified to proclaim that there is a relationship between decreased Stop and Search and increased Knife Crime, although a) It looks like there might be and b) Every weapon is carried through the streets at some point and the deterrent effect diminishes with reduced Stop and Search.
If you are a regular reader you will know that I strongly support the lawful use of Stop and Search i.e. complying with the requirements of s1 of PACE and not conducting random searches for the hell of it. Nothing here changes my view on that, but in my opinion it should be considered as a perfectly valid tactic if used properly againt the surge in Knife Crime.
Ordinarily that would have been the end of it. Here’s the problem, this is what I think of it, you might like to try this……the end.
Oh no, nothing so simple this time. Since writing my previous articles on Knife Crime and/or Stop and Search I have found this article in The Spectator.
Written by Alasdair Palmer, a former speech writer at the Home Office, one assumes that he writes with a degree of authority.
He was allegedly informed by one of Theresa May’s Special Advisers that stop and search was a policy which consistently alienates members of the black community. He was told, allegedly, that it would help the Home Secretary’s standing with Afro-Caribbeans if she made a statement that was critical of the police’s use of stop and search.
Her statement would include the fact that the Police’s use of Stop and Search was racist and that one was 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched if one was from an ethnic background. The reality was that the Home Office had conducted research in the reent past and that the statistics produced did not actually support this proposal.
If you want to know if the police are stopping and searching members of particular ethnic groups in a biased and possibly racist way, then what you need to know is who is available to be stopped and searched on the streets at the times that the police are stopping and searching people.……….
The team of Home Office researchers felt it was important to know the ethnic composition of the population available to be stopped and searched in the places and at the times the police were implementing that tactic. So they went out and counted it: they identified the percentage of the street population made up by each ethnic group. They then compared that with the percentage of stop and searches that were made up by each ethnic group. They discovered that, when you looked at who was available to be stopped and searched when the police were actually stopping and searching on the streets, the ethnic bias disappeared.
The Home Office research actually indicated to them that the Police did NOT seemingly target any section of the community in particular, but actually conducted their Stops and Searches in areas of high crime.
Many years later it appears as though that piece of research has been ‘buried’. Nobody at the Home Office knows about it or can find any trace of it.
Much has been made of Disclosure recently, but it seems that at least one piece of work was totally ignored when Thersa May made her politically inspired diktat on Stop and Search. SOMEBODY within the Home Office knew the truth (allegedly). Was it her SPAD? Did she herself know and choose to ignore this inconvenient piece of research?
My last quote for The Spectator (I hope they don’t mind, all acknowledgemnts given) is this
The special adviser re-wrote the statement in the way he wanted it, with the misleading statistic, and she gave the statement to parliament as he had written it on 2 July 2013. And the rest is history.
At the time in question I am informed that she only had two SPADs, one was female, the other was (allegedly) Nick Timothy. I presume the female was Fiona Hill.
All of this leaves me with one question really. Does Theresa May have the blood of untold youths on her hands, or is she totally innocent of all blame?