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Government refuses to release findings of section 60 stop and search pilot

The government has refused to release the findings of a pilot which removed safeguards around the use of section 60 ‘suspicion-less’ stop and searches, despite a Freedom of Information request by the Criminal Justice Alliance.

The pilot, which was launched in April 2019, made it easier for police forces to use section 60. The CJA recently warned that section 60 is an ineffective and harmful power damaging trust and confidence in policing in a super-complaint. We have been calling for the government to release the evaluation of the pilot and the related Equality Impact Assessment. In July, we submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the Home Office to publish both these documents.

We have now received a response. The Home Office has refused to publish the assessment claiming that it is exempt under several grounds, including that ‘Disclosure of information that is intended for policy making can be mis-interpreted and unhelpfully stimulate inaccurate and negative discourse which is not in the public interest especially where trust and confidence in policing is important.’

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

“The continued refusal by the government to publish any evidence behind its decision to remove crucial safeguards around section 60 reveals a disturbing but unfortunately unsurprising lack of transparency and accountability. The Home Office has tied itself up in knots trying to justify why it won’t release the evaluation. But we suspect the real reason is that there is no evidence that section 60 works to reduce crime. We know from recently published data that no weapons are found in 99 percent of searches under section 60. It is also the stop and search power used most disproportionately against Black people, damaging trust and confidence in policing.

“Meanwhile, the government is ushering in other harmful and draconian police powers through the policing bill, including a series of eleventh-hour amendments which again result in a lack of proper scrutiny. The government has said it wants to build trust and confidence in policing. It should start by publishing the evaluation behind section 60, repealing the power and helping police work with rather than against communities to truly improve public safety.”

Read more in this article by the Independent’s Home Affairs Editor Lizzie Dearden, who also received a refusal from the Home Office to her FOI.

The CJA has requested an internal review of the decision by the Home Office and is due to receive a response by 20 January.