The government has ‘no plans’ to drop the requirement that ‘reasonable grounds’ for suspicion are needed before a stop and search is carried out. It was reported over the weekend that police chiefs were pushing to expand the use of stop and search by lowering the level of suspicion – ‘reasonable grounds’ – an officer needs against a suspect to use the power.
Adrian Hanstock, the deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police and national lead on stop and search for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told the Guardian that there were ‘a lot of calls for officers to do more stop and search’. ‘But the current individual threshold that officers have to meet is very tight and precise. So is there any appetite to reduce that threshold where [an] officer has a genuine fear that the person is at risk, or there is a safeguarding threat, or is a risk to others?’
Currently, a police officer has powers to stop and search if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect someone is carrying illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property or something which could be used to commit a crime, such as a crowbar.
Shadow Minister for Immigration, Afzal Khan, yesterday asked an urgent question in the House of Commons on the Government’s stop and search policy. In response to Khan’s question, policing minister Nick Hurd said that the Government had ‘no plans to change the requirement that reasonable grounds for suspicion are needed before a routine stop and search is carried out’. He went on to say that the Government was looking at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of stop and search.
Khan, noting only one in 10 searches led to an arrest, asked: ‘Does the Minister accept that this was a colossal waste of police resources? As a former police officer, I can tell him that that is the case. Is he aware that, according to his Department’s own research, black people are eight times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched, and Asian people are twice as likely?’