New research underlines need for faster progress on stop and search

12 June 2012

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has joined with the Association of Chief Police Officers to call for faster improvements in the police’s use of stop and search. It has published new research which builds on the Commission’s ongoing work on stop and search showing the extent of the progress which some forces need to make.

The new research looks at how police forces are using stop and search powers under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It found that some of the police forces in England stop and search a much higher proportion of Black, Asian and mixed ethnicity people than others in their community.

This can be justified if the intention is to tackle a specific, immediate issue. However, the information received by the Commission did not always explain why a particular ethnic group was to be targeted under these orders. This makes it difficult to justify any imbalance in who is being stopped and searched and could leave police officers exposed to discrimination claims.

The Metropolitan, Merseyside, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and British Transport Police forces each carried out more than 2,000 s60 stops and searches in 2008-11. Of these six forces, Greater Manchester, West Midlands and the British Transport Police had the highest Black / White and mixed / White disproportionality ratios. The West Midlands also had the highest Asian / White disproportionality ratios.

The Commission’s ongoing work with the police on stop and search under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1994 has led to significant improvements. It is successfully collaborating with the five police forces that previously had the biggest disproportion figures for race. Early indications are that the forces are reducing the disproportion while keeping up the effectiveness of their policing.

Simon Wooley, lead Commissioner on race for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“It has been encouraging that some forces, such as the Metropolitan Police, have recognised the need to end disproportionate stop and search. Evidence led policing is much more effective, and avoids alienating the very people who should be helping the police to catch criminals.

“We will continue working with ACPO, the Home Office and individual police forces to ensure that effective and targeted policing is also fully in line with forces responsibilities to demonstrate equality and respect for human rights.”

Ends

For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818. For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to editors

The research report “Race disproportionality in stops and searches under s.60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994” can be downloaded from the Commission website at:

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/key-projects/race-in-britain/stop-and-think/

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives the police the power to stop and search any pedestrians or vehicles for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments within a specific area and period of time. The Commission asked all 40 police forces in England to disclose the grounds for authorisations using this power from 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2011. It asked for data on the number of authorisations made, the time, place and rationale for those authorisations, the number of stops and searches and effectiveness in terms of weapons found and arrests. It also analyses data published by the Home Office and Ministry of Justice.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.