The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA) has lodged a super-complaint against Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The police super-complaint process allows designated bodies to raise concerns about policing practices which are harming the public.
Unlike other types of stop and search, section 60 allows police officers to stop and search individuals in a given area for a set time without needing reasonable grounds to suspect they’ve committed a crime.
The blanket nature of the power is leading to thousands of innocent people being unnecessarily stopped and searched every year. In the report which sets out the super-complaint, the CJA highlights government data which shows that in the year ending 31 March 2020, there were just 698 arrests made in 18,081 searches under section 60, an arrest rate of 4%.
And yet despite its ineffectiveness, the use of section 60 is on the rise, increasing from 622 searches in 2016/17 to 18,081 in 2019/20.
Nick Glynn, who served as a police officer for 30 years and led on stop and search for the College of Policing, told the CJA in a supporting statement that section 60 is ineffective and has caused “immeasurable damage to young people.” He said several chief constables have told him that policing could operate without section 60 because other stop and search powers which require reasonable grounds are sufficient.
Leroy Logan, former superintendent at the Metropolitan Police and former chair of the National Black Police Association, said: “Some police forces have shown they are incapable of objectively self-controlling their use of section 60. Previous checks and balances have been eroded, leading to a lack of rigour and accountability. The draconian nature of its use reminds me of policing in the 1960s and 70s, a sus law on steroids. It traumatises young people and leads to heavy racial profiling. It is also ineffective in dealing with the causes of crime, and I have always maintained that police powers should be lost if they don’t prevent or reduce crime. It is now time for the government to repeal section 60.”
The Home Office removed previous checks and balances on the power in 2019, lowering the rank of officer who could authorise a section 60; reducing the degree of certainty needed for an authorisation from believing an incident involving serious violence ‘will’ occur to ‘may’ occur; and increasing the amount of time a section 60 can be put in place. The government initially said the changes would be piloted for a year in seven police force areas and then reviewed. But the changes were rolled out nationally six months into the pilot with no public consultation. Two years later, the Home Office still hasn’t published an evaluation.
The CJA also raises concerns in the super-complaint that there isn’t enough effective independent scrutiny of wider stop and search. One way to ensure fair and proportionate policing is through Community Scrutiny Panels (CSPs), where members of the public scrutinise the use of police powers. The College of Policing has produced guidance on community scrutiny, but it is not currently mandatory, and CSPs face several barriers to effectiveness.
The CJA calls for community scrutiny to be made a statutory requirement for all police force areas, and for the government to set up an independent national body to support robust community scrutiny, monitor national trends in the use of stop and search and hold police forces and the government to account.
Nina Champion, Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance, said: “It’s widely accepted that policing is at its best when it’s intelligence-led. Section 60 goes against this principle. It is a sweeping, draconian and ineffective power, disproportionately used against Black and ethnic minority communities, damaging the trust and confidence vital to effective policing. It’s essential that officers have reasonable grounds when they search someone to ensure fair and proportionate policing. For these reasons, the government must urgently repeal section 60.
“We all want to reduce violent crime, but section 60 is not the solution and is causing more harm than good. Instead, the government must invest in communities and fund youth services, which have been decimated in recent years. Research by the All Parliamentary Party Group on Knife Crime shows violent crime has increased most in areas where the largest cuts have been made to youth services.”