A report on new stop and search powers has found they fail to reduce violence, and police use them disproportionately against Black people.
These findings, from a report by the Runnymede Trust, are the first review of Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs), introduced in 2022. SRVOS enable the police to stop and search individuals subject to them without needing a ‘reasonable ground of suspicion’. The court can make someone subject to an SVRO where it believes the individual ‘used or was in possession of a bladed article or offensive weapon’ when an offence was committed. Currently, the scheme is being piloted in Thames Valley, West Midlands, Merseyside and Sussex.
The report indicates that Black people are ‘just over six times more likely to be stopped under stop and search powers compared with white people’ in the UK. Furthermore, that there is a disproportionate impact on young Black men who are not only targeted more, but also experience high levels of force from officers as a result of these discretionary powers. Dr Tim Head, who authored the report, said,: ‘the vast majority of rigorous evidence on SVROs’ shows that these high discretion police stop interventions do not work but instead ‘produce harm, anxiety and misery among the communities they purport to protect’.
The Runnymede Trust recommends scrapping SVROs and calls for the repeal of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 due to their ineffectiveness and institutional racism in police forces across the UK. This was highlighted by Baroness Casey’s report into the Met Police earlier this year where it called for a ’fundamental reset’ on stop and search policing. It found that for too long, the Met has ‘over policed’ and ‘under-protected’ Black Londoners through its disproportionate use of stop and search powers. Other forces face similar indictments.
The SVRO scheme, first set out by the rightwing Centre for Social Justice thinktank, was backed by Boris Johnson in 2019 in order to tackle knife crime. However, justification for SVROs ‘breaking the cycle of offending’ is refuted by the Runnymede trust due to the lack of ‘meaningful impact on the prevention of violence’.
The erosion of trust in the police detailed in the Casey report was echoed by the Runnymede Trust and alternative recommendations were emphasized for their importance in looking to fund community led and grassroots organisations to try to prevent violence.