The Home Secretary Priti Patel announced yesterday (Sunday) that a pilot easing restrictions around emergency stop and search powers has been extended to all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
The changes have been welcomed by officers and relatives of knife crime victims.
These Section 60 powers are used in a targeted way by police when they anticipate violence in a particular area. They are used following stabbings, for example, to find weapons and prevent reprisal attacks.
By extending the pilot to all forces, the Government is returning Section 60 to the conditions set out in Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 – and therefore what Parliament voted for - and ending any confusion for police around using it.
Stop and search figures
- There were 202 arrests made following 2,501 Section 60 searches in 2017/18, of which 71 were for weapons
- More generally, stop and search is more targeted and intelligence-led than before. The arrest rate for all types of stop and search was 17% in 2017/18 - the highest on record
- The Metropolitan Police has credited stop and searches of all types in helping to reduce knife-related injuries among under 25s by 15% in 2017/18
- Stop and searches of all types have resulted in over 48,000 arrests in 2017/18, with nearly 8,000 of those for weapons and firearms
Section 60 pilot & Best Use of Stop and Search
The pilot aims to make it simpler for forces to intervene and save lives. It also gives them longer to search for potentially deadly weapons and take them off the streets.
The pilot relaxes the voluntary conditions police forces signed up to on the use of Section 60, which were introduced in 2014 as part of the Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme (BUSSS).
The nationwide pilot is a trial and we will assess the results next year.
Support from police and victims
The changes have been welcomed by the police and relatives of knife crime victims.
National Police Chief Council Lead for Stop and Search, Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock, said:
The authority to stop and search people in appropriate circumstances is a necessary power that allows police officers to tackle violence in our communities and prevent people from becoming victims of crime.
Every day officers across the country seize horrifying weapons and are preventing further injuries and deaths by using their search powers.
Section 60 powers to stop and search anyone within a designated area can be extremely effective when there have been violent incidents and police commanders believe there is a high risk of further violence occurring.
The extension of this pilot to all 43 police forces, and British Transport Police across the rail network, will help to reduce bureaucracy and allow officers to use Section 60 controls much faster when it is clear it is in the public interest to do so.
Caroline Shearer founded the charity Only Cowards Carry in memory of her 17-year-old son Jay Whiston, who was fatally stabbed in 2012. She said:
These changes to stop and search are fantastic news. My son’s killer carried a knife around for weeks before he attacked my son. Had stop and search been used on my son’s killer, he may well still be alive today.
Laws need to been changed, sentences need to be raised to prevent these unprovoked, sickening crimes. So on behalf of myself and many other victims, I would like to say thank you. At last someone has taken the bull by the horns to steer our youngsters away from this terrible epidemic.
West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said:
The expansion of stop and search powers will give police officers the opportunity to prevent crime from happening in the first place – which in turn will bring more confidence to communities.
Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst said:
Great to see the extension to stop and search powers announced by the government this morning. Stop and search is a vital part of what we need to do to get violence off the streets of Essex - alongside cracking down on gang leaders and supporting young people with guidance and mentoring.
Speaking about the launch of the initial pilot
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, said:
I welcome the Home Secretary’s continuing support for our officers using stop and search to tackle violent crime.
Stop and Search is an extremely important power for the police. It is undoubtedly a part of our increasing results suppressing levels of violence and knife crime.
Our well trained officers acting on intelligence, use their powers professionally every day to remove weapons and other illegal items from the streets and to arrest violent offenders and those who habitually carry weapons.
In the last eighteen months we have also increased the use of our powers under Section 60 to prevent further violence from taking place. We are combining this with communication and engagement, so the public feel informed and supportive of our enforcement activities to tackle violent crime.
The Government is clear that all stop and search powers must be used in a way that is fair, proportionate and legal. No one should be stopped on the basis of their race.
Forces are obligated to monitor their use of the power and all forces are required to gather and monitor comprehensive data- as well as to allow appropriate scrutiny by community representatives.
In addition, the College of Policing is currently consulting on new guidance for forces on community engagement around stop and search.
Integrated approach to tackling knife crime
Section 60 stop and search is just one area of Government action to tackle serious violence: We are also:
- recruiting 20,000 more police officers over the next three years
- investing £220 million in community-based early intervention projects aimed at steering young people away from crime
- providing £35 million to establish Violence Reduction Units in 18 areas of the UK
- introducing a new ‘public health duty’ that will ensure that relevant services, including the police, local councils, health bodies, education representatives and youth offending services, work together to share data, intelligence and knowledge to understand and address the root causes of serious violence, including knife crime, and allow them to target their interventions to prevent and stop violence altogether