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Civil rights campaigners brand government plans to strengthen police stop-and-search powers as ‘discrimination’

CIVIL rights campaigners have blasted government plans to permanently strengthen police stop-and-search powers as “discrimination” and warned that they would divide communities.

The relaxation of restrictions on section 60 powers is contained in the government’s Beating Crime Plan, launched today by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Under the plan, officers will be given the right to search people without reasonable grounds in an area where violence is expected.

But campaigners warn that the wider use of stop and search will disproportionately affect black and ethnic minority communities.

Civil rights group Liberty predicted that the the change would “compound discrimination in Britain and divide communities.”

Liberty’s Emmanuelle Andrews said: “We all want to feel safe in our communities, but expanding what have proven to be discriminatory police powers isn’t how we get there. 

“Many communities, particularly communities of colour, experience overbearing and oppressive policing and the package the government has put forward will only worsen this. 

“It will subject more young people to further coercion, punishment and control.”

She called on the government to instead repeal “suspicionless” stop-and-search powers.

Kevin Blowe, campaigns co-ordinator at police monitoring group Netpol, said that there was an “alarming" lack of evidence to support the change.

“There is plenty of evidence that stop and search is wholly ineffective and its use is consistently discriminatory and racist.” he said.

“We need to stop treating whole communities as potential suspects or gang members, stop stigmatising young people and listen to them instead.”

Mr Blowe called it “no coincidence” that the plans come as Home Secretary Priti Patel is being attacked by the Police Federation over a pay freeze for rank-and file-officers.

Stop Watch research and policy manager Habib Kadiri branded the move a "yet another example of its desire to punish rather than help vulnerable young people."

 

“Since the introduction of the pilot in March 2019, the volume of searches under the power has increased by a third, while returning a pathetic 1 per cent arrest rate for weapons and a 4 per cent arrest rate overall," he said.

 

Mr Kadiri added that the boosting of “suspicionless” searches could further erode trust between overpoliced communities and police forces.

 

“Those with long memories remember the terror and violence of sus laws – the government needs to provide more help for vulnerable young people if we wish to avoid a return to those days,” he said.

But Mr Johnson defended the move during a visit with Ms Patel to the Surrey Police headquarters in Guildford.

He denied that giving officers greater stop-and-search powers was a “strong-arm tactic,” claiming instead that it was a “kind and loving thing to do.”

The Prime Minister said: “The people who often support stop and search most passionately are the parents of the kids who are likely themselves to be the victims of knife crime.”

However, his visit was criticised by Surrey Police Federation, with chairwoman Mel Warnes saying: “Our colleagues should not be used as public relations pawns by politicians.

“Police officers have given everything. The government has given us nothing.

“Frankly, their visit is not welcomed by, I am sure, the majority of hard-working police officers.”

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