United Kingdom

Backlash fears as Priti Patel boosts police stop and search powers

Home Secretary Priti Patel is preparing to risk uproar by giving police new stop and search powers – despite claims by campaigners that they target the black community unfairly.

New legislation intended to tackle spiralling knife crime will give police the automatic right to search individuals who have previously been convicted of knife offences without, as at present, having ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect they are carrying a weapon.

Ms Patel, whose move comes seven years after Theresa May introduced changes to the powers when she was at the Home Office to make it less ‘biased’, told The Mail on Sunday that she was acting because mothers of stabbed children insist ‘stop and search is a vital tool to tackle knife crime’.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing And Courts Bill, which will go before MPs within weeks, includes Serious Violence Reduction Orders giving police the ‘automatic right to search those who pose the greatest risk’, allowing ‘known criminals to be stopped at any time’.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is preparing to risk uproar by giving police new stop and search powers – despite claims by campaigners that they target the black community unfairly

In 2014, Mrs May said stop and search was ‘unfair, especially to young black men’. Studies have shown that black Britons are up to nine times more likely to be stopped than white people.

Ms Patel said: ‘The police tell me stop and search is a vital tool to tackle knife crime. Mothers of children who have been stabbed on our streets tell me that stop and search is a vital tool to tackle knife crime.

‘I have spent time with the mums, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles of young boys who have died on our streets. They all say to me, “Priti, why wasn’t my son searched? Why wasn’t his attacker searched? If they had been, my son could have been alive today.” That hammers home the reality of this devastating situation.’

Currently, police may not use someone’s physical appearance, past convictions or a ‘protected characteristic’ such as age, disability or sexual orientation when making stop and search decisions.

Currently, police may not use someone’s physical appearance, past convictions or a ‘protected characteristic’ such as age, disability or sexual orientation when making stop and search decisions (file image) 

Ms Patel added: ‘A minority will say these measures are disproportionate and will affect minority communities or claim that this is racism. That is simply not true.

‘People will say these measures are controversial. But to me, when people are dying, that doesn’t matter. The Government’s number one job is to keep our people safe.’

She said that in the past year, stop and search powers had led to almost 65,000 criminal acts being discovered and 34,000 arrests, including 4,418 for possessing weapons.

The Bill will also contain a Serious Violence Duty requiring ‘arms of the state’ to work together to analyse violent crime issues in their area and create a response strategy.

Last night, the Home Secretary thanked engineers ‘working throughout the weekend’ to restore data lost from the Police National Database, which is thought to have affected more than 400,000 crime records.

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