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Met apologises to Williams for stop and search and launches review into handcuffing

THE Metropolitan Police has apologised to Team GB athlete Bianca Williams for the “distress” caused when she was stopped and handcuffed by officers in front of her three-month-old baby. 

Ms Williams and her partner Ricardo dos Santos, who are both black, were stopped by police while driving to their home in Maida Vale, west London, on Saturday.

The conduct of the officers involved has come under scrutiny after a video was posted showing the pair being forced out of their car.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist accused the officers of racially profiling her partner for driving a Mercedes.

Scotland Yard insisted that there was “no evidence” of misconduct, but the force has since referred the incident to the policing watchdog.

Speaking to the Home Affairs committee today, Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said that officers had apologised to the athletes. 

“We apologised yesterday to Ms Williams and I apologise again for the distress this stop clearly caused her,” she told MPs. 

“Yesterday, two of my officers spoke on our behalf to Ms Williams, and I think all of us watching could empathise with somebody who is stopped in a vehicle, who has a young child in the back, who does not probably know what exactly is going on and is subsequently found, together with her partner, not to be carrying anything illicit,” she continued. 

Ms Dick added that she had ordered a review of the use of handcuffs after being told that handcuffing by her force has increased five-fold in the past three years and that 35 per cent of those subjected to it are black. 

She said: “I actually, having seen a number of issues raised, have said to one of my senior officers: ‘Can you please review our handcuffing practices to make sure it hasn’t become a default in certain situations, because it shouldn’t do’.” 

The commissioner was also grilled on the policing of Black Lives Matter protests in June and the increased use of stop and search by Met officers, which jumped by 50 per cent from the beginning of this year to May.

In 2018, black people were 4.3 times more likely to be stopped than white people. 

Asked to justify the increased use of the practice, Ms Dick said she was “utterly sure” of a link between stop and search and a decline in violent crime. 

She also defended the policing of the protests in June, claiming officers “handled them as well as anyone could,” and had behaved “fairly” and with “restraint.”

Civil liberties group Liberty had accused the Met of “potentially unlawful policing” of the demonstrations after officers kettled hundreds of protesters into the early hours of the morning.

Black Protest Legal Support, a group of legal advisors who monitored policing during the BLM protests, disputed Ms Dick’s comments saying the policing had been “anything but ‘fair’ and ‘restrained’.”

The group’s spokeswoman told the Star: “Our independent Legal Observers witnessed officers act violently and aggressively towards protesters, without provocation.

"We also remain concerned by the misuse of police powers when kettling hundreds of protesters, including vulnerable children.

“The police must be held to account for these potentially unlawful actions. Cressida Dick’s comments are, in our view, a smokescreen for the rife police brutality that we saw on the ground.”

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