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by Bethany Rielly
HOME Secretary Priti Patel’s plans to boost stop & search powers risk creating a class of people treated as permanent criminals, policing campaigners have warned.
Under new laws, police will be handed new powers allowing them to stop and search people convicted of knife-crime offences without a reason.
The changes, to be enacted in the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Court Bill, which is being presented to MPs within weeks, differ from current stop & search rules which, in most cases, require officers to have a suspicion that an offence is about to be committed.
Instead, serious violence-reduction orders will give police an automatic right to stop and search a “known criminal” at any time.
Today Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) co-ordinator Kevin Blowe said that this risks “creating a class of people who are treated as ‘permanent criminals’ — or who are regularly misidentified as such.
“It also risks further criminalising vulnerable young people who are coerced into crime,” he said.
Campaigners have warned that the new powers will exacerbate the racial disparity already seen in the use of stop & search powers, with black people nine times more likely to be subjected to the tactic than white in England and Wales.
Gary McFarlane from Stand up to Racism Haringey told the Morning Star: “[The new laws] will give the police power to search anyone with a previous conviction without having to provide grounds for doing so. How are such persons going to be identified? By the colouring [of] their skin?”
The Monitoring Group’s Dorothea Jones said that the new powers would give cops carte blanche to continue targeting young black men, and risk fuelling greater distrust of the police within minority communities.
Ms Patel has rejected claims that the measures will disproportionately target minority communities as “simply not true.”
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