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Government fails to produce evidence behind expansion of stop and search

Police officers on duty

In 2019, the government launched a pilot which removed previous restrictions around section 60 stop and search, making it easier for police forces to use the harmful and ineffective power. In July this year, the government announced it would permanently remove the restrictions, without publishing any evidence behind its decision.  

We wrote an open letter to the Home Secretary and submitted a Freedom of Information request calling for the data. Three months later, we are yet to receive a response. 

In May, the CJA raised concerns about section 60 in a super-complaint against the power. Government data shows 99 percent of searches under section 60 do not uncover weapons, and charities told us the power is damaging trust and confidence in policing, making it harder for police to tackle violent crime. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) recently announced it will investigate the police’s use of the power on our behalf.

Nina Champion, Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance, said: 

“We are frustrated by the government’s continued failure to publish any evidence behind the decision to permanently expand this harmful form of stop and search.  It said the relaxation of the restrictions on suspicion-less searches was a pilot which they would evaluate. And yet the results are still being kept hidden, despite intervention by the Information Commissioner’s Office.  

“Throughout the pandemic, the government has highlighted the importance of following the evidence to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, it seemingly fails to apply the same logic when it comes to policing and violence reduction. We call on the government to rethink its approach and either produce evidence which clearly and irrefutably supports expanding section 60, or else repeal the power and focus on what works — investing in tackling the root causes of violent crime.   

“This appalling lack of transparency is particularly concerning given it comes at a time when the government is set to introduce further suspicion-less stop and search powers by piloting Serious Violence Reduction Orders. Members of the House of Lords scrutinising the Policing Bill in the coming weeks should be asking whether these new powers will also be rolled out without a proper, published evaluation.”